TAXI drivers along the Yorkshire coast are set to become the “eyes and ears” of seaside resorts as part of a new scheme which is being launched to slash crime and boost protection of late night revellers as the busy summer season dawns.
Drivers in Scarborough and Filey who sign up to Taxi Watch will have a direct radio link to police and will be able to report incidents from witnessing a fight to spotting a vulnerable person who has had too much to drink.
Three taxi firms have already undergone training and signed up to the scheme which is also due to be rolled out to Whitby as part of Scarborough Borough Council’s wider focus on the night-time economy.
The council’s community safeguarding officer, Sandra Rees, said: “We have been training taxi companies on safeguarding children, young people and vulnerable adults and they acknowledge that they are the eyes and ears of the town. They see a lot of people that could be vulnerable and hear a lot of things that have been said that they feel they maybe could have done something about so we decided to set up Taxi Watch.”
While out on duty, drivers will be able to radio in any concerns to Scarborough’s CCTV hub where staff will be able to keep a watchful eye on events that unfold and alert police.
The initiative will also boost protection for drivers, who will be able to alert police faster if they feel they are in danger while working.
Pubs and clubs and volunteers who patrol the streets to keep people safe and prevent anti-social behaviour already have radio links with the police and taxi drivers are the latest to get on board.
Inspector Tony Quinn, from Scarborough Police, which is working in partnership with the council, said: “If they are driving down a street and they see a fight breaking out they can radio it in and CCTV will be able to inform us. Instead of calling police and waiting to get through, they will be able to pick up the radio and the message will be instantaneous. We are already working effectively with licensed premises and with the street angels and night marshals so it’s fantastic that the taxis are getting on board as they are in a really good position.”
Mrs Rees stressed the scheme was not being set up to act as a Big Brother for the town, but would focus on protecting vulnerable people and crackdown on crime.
She said: “We don’t want it to come across as having spies. It’s about offering protection, as well as preventing major crime. It’s part of the work we are doing in the night-time economy to safeguard people.
“It’s just someone else watching and protecting the public and it’s all adding to the safety of the town - not just at night-time but during the day as well.”
Nippy Taxis, Station Taxis and Bee-Line Radio Cars in Scarborough are the first to sign up to Taxi Watch. Other firms are expected to follow in the coming weeks and the scheme is expected to go live at the start of April.
Mrs Rees added: “It’s a massive step forward and we are really pleased with it. We are expecting other taxi companies get involved and we are also hoping to get Whitby drivers on board. Part of our ongoing work is to encourage other firms to be part of this opportunity to all work together to reduce crime and disorder. We are hoping the public will feel safer using all of our services as a result.”
As part of the scheme, the council and the police will set up regular meetings with drivers where support will be offered and each taxi firm will have direct access to an individual officer. On top of training, they will also be issued with advice booklets to ensure drivers are fully aware of how to deal with difficult situations.
Stephen Davies, from Station Taxis, said: “Drivers do see things so I think it’s a fantastic idea having that direct link so we can inform the authorities.
“The main thing is we feel safe as drivers and the public know there are people out there looking out for them.”