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Reducing Taxicab Homicides

Categories: Motor Vehicle Safety, Service Sector, Transportation, Violence, Wholesale and Retail Trade

Photo of the type of camera used in New York City and Seattle taxicabs.

Taxicab drivers face one of the highest homicide rates of any occupation.  While rates of homicide have declined among the general working population (in 2010, 0.37 per 100,000 employed), they remain high in the taxicab industry (7.4 per 100,000 employed for the same year).  In the early 1990s, bullet-resistant partitions were the dominant safety equipment in use in taxicabs.  Currently, cameras are in greater use and have become the security equipment of choice for industry regulators and taxicab fleet operators.

New research from NIOSH examines the effectiveness of partitions and security cameras in reducing homicides among taxicab drivers.  This is the first study to methodically collect data from a nationally representative sample of the largest taxicab cities.  Data was collected over a 15-year time span (1996-2010) for 26 cities (8 cities using security cameras, 7 cities using partitions, and 11 control cities that used neither cameras nor partitions) and allows for comparison of homicide rates pre- and post-installation of cameras.  The study was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The study found a three times lower homicide rate in the cities where taxicabs use security cameras than the control cities and a seven times lower homicide rate when compared to the rates before installation of the cameras.  There was no statistically significant difference in homicide rates for cities where the taxicabs used partitions compared with control cities.   

During the 15-year study period, news clippings identified 216 taxicab driver homicides in the 26 cities included in the analysis. The average number of taxicab driver homicides was 14 per year, with the minimum being three homicides (2007) and the maximum 24 (1997, 1998).

The data suggest that citywide installation of security cameras in taxicabs may result in a sustainable reduction of the homicide rate among taxicab drivers. However, cameras are effective to the extent that they are used to their optimal performance and publicized. The ordinance requirements in some cities mandate that a decal be posted on the passenger windows to make passengers aware that they are under surveillance thereby deterring would-be perpetrators.  

Another crucial component to ensure optimal performance of security cameras is maintaining cameras according to manufacturer’s instructions and not allowing security cameras to be intentionally disabled. Security cameras mandated by ordinance are checked for functioning at yearly inspections organized by city regulators, if not more frequently, when taxicab vehicles are checked for safety.

All six taxicab driver homicides that occurred post-camera installation took place in cities where cameras are required by company policy instead of by city ordinance. Although company policies for security camera installation may be effective, municipal ordinances requiring that all taxicabs be equipped with operating security cameras may be more effective. Such ordinances would ensure that individual owner–operated taxicabs and smaller businesses would use cameras, as do the nationally recognized taxicab companies that make up a large share of the market.

Current research is planned to evaluate the effect of cameras and other safety measures in reducing robbery and assault rates by interviewing individual drivers.

We would like to thank the International Association of Transportation Regulators (IATR) for their partnership in this considerable endeavor. In particular, Craig Leisy, with the Consumer Affairs Unit in Seattle, WA, provided several invaluable critical reviews of the study during the proposal and writing phases. Malachi Hull and Matt Daus, Presidents of IATR, and Karen Cameron were crucial for building partnerships with municipal agencies. The authors also express gratitude to Charles Rathbone, taxicab driver and assistant fleet manager who maintains the Taxi Library website, who was the inspiration for this study.

Cammie Chaumont Menéndez, PhD, MPH, MS

Dr. Chaumont Menéndez  is an Epidemiologist in the NIOSH  Division of Safety Research.

Public Comments

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  1. July 8, 2013 at 12:42 pm ET  -   MARK

    “The study found a three times lower homicide rate in the cities where taxicabs use security cameras than the control cities and a seven times lower homicide rate when compared to the rates before installation of the cameras”

    HAS THERE BEEN STUDIES DONE IN RESIDENTAL HOMES WITH CAMERAS? I WOULD IMMAGINE THE SAME STATISTIC WOULD BE TRUE FOR HOME SECURITY SYSTEMS WITH CAMERAS

    Link to this comment

    • AUTHOR COMMENT July 9, 2013 at 8:13 am ET  -   Cammie Chaumont Menéndez

      Our research focused on taxicabs and I’m not aware of the research that may have been done on residential camera use. However, crime prevention through environmental design theory finds that would-be perpetrators are less likely to commit a crime while under surveillance.

      Link to this comment

  2. July 9, 2013 at 11:31 am ET  -   Gerry Manley

    Although there is not one piece or combination pieces of equipment that will 100% protect a taxicab driver in his workplace, I can attest to the digital camera being the best of the best when it comes to safety equipment for taxicabs. In 1998, I installed the first digital camera in a taxi cab in North America and was instrumental in having my city, Toronto, Ontario Canada pass one of the first mandated taxi driver workplace safety by laws in the world. To date, it has been very effective by reducing overall crime to our taxi driver by 70%+, but I feel that could be enhanced to reach 90%+ with more direct involvement by the taxi driver in pointing out the equipment to each and every passenger sometime during the trip. Over the fifteen years that I have had my digital camera and conversed with thousands of passengers, it has become evident that this piece of safety equipment is by far the most consumer friendly and one the consumer will more readily support especially when comparing it with the safety shield. The camera also requires regular checks by both the operator and the regulator to ensure it is operating at maximum capacity and performance, which in many jurisdictions is not occurring. There also should be a mandate to regularly re-visit the camera manufactures to ascertain in any advancements in technology that maybe helpful in upgrading the camera, which I suggest should be every two years. There are other pieces of safety equipment that are available and there should be a concerned effort of all major stakeholders in each municipality to hold public meetings and come up with an overall plan to protect the taxicab drivers in their jurisdictions that includes one or multiple pieces of safety equipment that is mandate in their local bylaws. Having been involved in taxicab driver workplace safer for almost four decades, I am more than pleased to see that more and more cities are coming to the realization that the taxicab driver, who is an important part of any city’s transportation grid, does work in the world’s most dangerous vocation and there is a mandate for each and every city throughout the world to mandate the they are protected in their workplace. I invite you to check my website on this most important issue [www.taxidriversafety.net]

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  3. July 9, 2013 at 12:42 pm ET  -   Sandra

    Article very important in these times of violence.

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  4. July 10, 2013 at 8:00 am ET  -   cep telefonunun

    Homicide in taxicab is hovering the fear among the people for travelling. Therefore, security cameras, checkpoints and eradication of illegal arms are the key steps that could trim the threats of Homicide.

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  5. July 11, 2013 at 5:27 pm ET  -   Dave Newman (NYCOSH)

    The issue of how to reduce or prevent assaults in mobile workplaces (taxis, buses, etc.) is a complex one. In the U.S., the increasing use of partitions in taxis and buses has often been characterized by retrofitting into existing vehicles. Workers, unions, and advocacy organizations have had little or no input into the design or implementation of barrier devices. Consequently, it is not surprising that issues such as glare and visibility, ventilation, provision for emergency exit, maintenance of ability to interact with passengers, seat adjustability, etc. have not been adequately considered and serve as disincentives to driver acceptance, resulting in bypass of the safety intent of the partition. This may be contrasted with, for example, radically different partition designs in European and South American buses, where there appear to be a greater tendency to take these and other factors into account. It is likely that were drivers to have practical input into the design and implementation of barriers their use and effectiveness would increase.

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    • AUTHOR COMMENT July 17, 2013 at 2:01 pm ET  -   Cammie Chaumont Menéndez

      Thank you for your comment. We agree that input from users is very important in the design and implementation of safety equipment. While there are similarities between taxi drivers and bus drivers there are also differences that may make partitions more effective among bus drivers i.e. bus drivers don’t rely on tips and have a set route to drive, making driver-passenger interaction less of a “requirement” of the job and may in fact be more of an unsafe driving distraction for the bus driver. While we did not observe an effect for preventing homicides by using partitions in this study, it does not mean there isn’t an effect for prevention of other crimes. More research needs to be done in this area. NIOSH is planning research to evaluate the effect of cameras, partitions, and other safety measures in reducing robbery and assault rates.

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  6. July 13, 2013 at 10:15 am ET  -   Steve Crowell

    Finally, after decades of using taxi partitions in an experiment to try to save drivers’ lives, we see the results are, at best, “zero benefit”. This is from a nearly non-partisan source, The Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, GA. http://www.ajpmonline.org/webfiles/images/journals/amepre/3793-stamped-061113.pdf

    It is long past the proper time to remove taxi partitions from the cabs.

    I build automobile partitions and I have never endorsed their use as ‘robbery’ or ‘assault prevention’ devices.

    It is dangerous and irresponsible to expect a taxi partition to be something it never was before the taxi application.

    Prior to using them in taxis… partitions were never expected to prevent an assault.

    In limousines, they provide privacy, in a utility van, they retain cargo.
    In a police car, they keep frisked, disarmed, seatbelted, handcuffed prisoners from getting in the front seat.

    In a taxi, a partition never prevented a shooting of a cab driver. If one shooting occurs tthat is proof they don’t work. The number of murders was unchanged with partition use.

    Link to this comment

    • AUTHOR COMMENT July 17, 2013 at 1:43 pm ET  -   Cammie Chaumont Menéndez

      We appreciate your commitment to the health and safety of taxicab drivers. While this is the most comprehensive study looking at two major types of safety equipment in taxicabs city by city (rather than driver by driver) for preventing homicides, it is just one study. Just because we did not observe an effect for preventing homicides by using partitions in this study does not mean there isn’t an effect for prevention of other crimes. More research needs to be done in this area. NIOSH is planning research to evaluate the effect of cameras, partitions, and other safety measures in reducing robbery and assault rates.

      Link to this comment

  7. November 27, 2013 at 10:43 am ET  -   Sahantha

    Security Cameras are the biggest saviors of the innocents in most cases. I strongly believe it.

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  8. December 15, 2013 at 2:16 pm ET  -   James

    Hi there,

    Thanks for the security cameras, what i personally agree is;
    that these cameras of all taxis must be linked to one monitoring location.
    So that the relevant authorities can monitor each taxi and / (or) randomly monitor, and some sort of security device and a tracking device must be there in the cars to alert the monitoring location. For an example, below the steering wheel so that in case of an emergency the driver can alert immediately.

    All the best.

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  9. February 24, 2014 at 1:10 am ET  -   Jacob Smith

    It is very unfortunate that these drivers get killed unnecessarily while earning honest money.

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  10. February 25, 2014 at 9:52 am ET  -   John Frisk

    Very informative post.

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  11. March 5, 2014 at 5:33 am ET  -   ashok102

    It is right that the taxi drivers have to face homicide rates. i totally agree with the author and it is not only in a single country i think it is a universe problem.
    jaipur cab service

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  12. April 1, 2014 at 7:51 am ET  -   Espai Barcelona

    Being a taxi driver in one of the European capitals like Barcelona, ​​is a very extresante work, besides those exposed to any kind of aggression by the customer. It is logical that need more security

    Jonh from Espai Barcelona

    Link to this comment

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