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Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, July 21, 2024
HomeNewsArchivesFARE-STEALING SCHEME BRINGS TAXI OFFICERS OUT

FARE-STEALING SCHEME BRINGS TAXI OFFICERS OUT

Taxi enforcement officers rushed to the Red Hook ferry dock Monday to quell a reported disturbance between members of rival taxi associations vying for passengers.
According to Taxi Commissioner Harold Baker, the incident began when drivers from the VI Taxi Association began calling over the fence at the dock’s taxi stand to arriving ferry passengers. The stand is operated by the East End Taxi Association.
"I received a call … from East End Taxi informing me that drivers and operators from the VI Taxi Association were outside the gate telling the people coming off the ferry not to take East End Taxi because they did not have insurance," Baker said Tuesday.
The call prompted Baker to send his enforcement officers to the scene, but he said the alleged rule-breakers had already left. Enforcement officers returned to the dock Tuesday morning, but operations had returned to normal.
Commission rules prohibit solicitation near an association taxi stand. "They cannot solicit within 50 feet of a franchise," Baker said. "Some of the drivers were within 50 feet of that zone."
The commissioner also said both the dispatcher for East End Taxi and Randolph Thomas of the St. John Taxi Services Association reported the alleged passenger-stealing attempt was a coordinated effort between VI Taxi Association drivers on St. Thomas and St. John.
"Apparently they’ve been communicating by radio," Baker said, with St. John drivers from the same association telling passengers leaving Cruz Bay to go past the fence at Red Hook to get a taxi.
To put a stop to their activities, the commissioner said he sent his chief enforcement officer to Cruz Bay on Tuesday in addition to ordering officers on St. Thomas to return and monitor the situation.
Attempts to contact VI Taxi Association President Eustace Grant for comment Tuesday were unsuccessful.
Competition for passengers among drivers from rival taxi associations is a frequent occurrence, Baker said, although incidents have been fewer this summer. Baker said the taxi commission is charged with keeping chaos at bay and has formed an alliance with the Crime Prevention Bureau of the VI Police Department. To raise awareness and change attitudes among taxi operators, the commission is running seminars and workshops encouraging professionalism in dealing with the public and tolerance for fellow drivers, some of whom have migrated from different islands and cultures.
But the commissioner said he will not tolerate drivers who flagrantly flaunt the rules.
"I keep telling those guys, you may own the medallion but those licenses belong to the VI government," he said. "They’re going to follow the rules or we’re going to keep them off the road."

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