Editorial

What or who is behind this plague of taxis?

Thursday, July 11, 2019

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Last August, the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) launched the Public Safety and Traffic Enforcement (PSTE) branch, which was a merger of the Motorised Patrol and Traffic divisions.

Has anybody seen this unit which was going to be highly visible — outfitted in neon vests and helmets with matching motorcycles to boot — and targeting traffic, vending and littering violations as well as responding to safety and security issues?

The promise made by Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson would see “the transformation of the police force into one that has high levels of public trust and confidence”.

A year later, instead of some semblance of improvements on the roads, what we have is a plague of taximen that have overrun the Corporate Area particularly; a lawless bunch who generally could not care less about the rules of the road.

They park or stop any and everywhere, pick up or let off passengers in the middle of the streets, overtake at pedestrian crossings, run red lights, honk their horns in silence zones like schools and hospitals and curse or threaten anyone who objects to their lawlessness.

The sudden jump in the number of taxis on the road has only added to the historical disorderliness. The Transport Authority, which approves taxi licences, has a great deal to answer for.

What explains this seemingly unprecedented number of taxi licences? And who is behind it? We need answers from the Transport Authority. Surely, the market cannot sustain such high volumes of taxis.

This is likely the reason for the Wild West operations as taxi men jostle for passengers and would seemingly run over children or old people to pick up anyone resembling a commuter standing near a bus top.

It has got to the point where the JCF might well need to have a unit solely devoted to handling taxis and minibuses 24/7. No need for neon vests to satisfy anyone's desire for special colours; let them be in plain clothes.

In the meantime, can the PSTE step up to the plate and begin to earn its keep by carrying out its mandate to “restore and enhance public order and safety on the nation's streets”, especially in town centres islandwide.

Let us remind Major General Anderson of his own words last August:

“We are responsible for public safety and public order; we are responsible for enforcement of the rules, enforcement of the law and enforcement of the regulation; and we need to be consistent with our enforcement and inform in the way we treat with matters.

“And if we are like that, we can become more and more trusted and the confidence in us will grow. We will shape behaviour by this consistent action and our consistent approach to policing.

“It is clear that our people need to see our police officers and we need to be far more visible. Hopefully we can shape behaviour and not spend as much time on enforcement, but with high visibility needs to be high accessibility.”

It must be impressed upon those seeking a taxi licence that an improperly operated motor vehicle is a lethal weapon. The new Road Traffic Act must come on stream and be rigorously enforced.


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