Allan French sits in his taxi cab in a parking lot in Charlottetown. French says police could charge him with kidnapping because he would not let two people who refused to pay their fare leave his cab.
©Guardian photo by Brian McInnis
CHARLOTTETOWN – A taxi driver in Charlottetown fed up with intoxicated passengers who skip out on their fares says he decided to take a stand – and now may be facing criminal charges.
On Sunday at 3 a.m., Alan French picked up two men in their early 20s in Charlottetown. They asked to be taken to an address in the Hillsborough development.
But upon arrival, the men informed French they had no intention of paying him for the cab ride.
“So, what I did was, I locked my car doors and phoned my dispatcher on the two-way, and said, ‘Can you phone city police? I’m going to take these two guys over the police station for non-payment of funds.’”
He then drove them to the police station. Along the way, he says one of the men struck him in the head and jumped out of the vehicle.
The young man later turned up at the station.
French says police questioned both him and the two men.
That’s when he was informed he may be the one facing charges of unlawful confinement.
“Is this real, am I dreaming? Is this a nightmare? I couldn’t believe it,” French said, describing his reaction.
“Drivers are getting ripped off on a constant basis now and nothing happens. But when we make a stand as a driver, we face the consequences.”
French said he was fed up with the increasing number of passengers not paying their cab fares.
Some will claim they have no cash. Others say they need to fetch their money from inside their destination and never come back out to pay.
Neil Harpham, president of the Charlottetown Taxi Association, says the problem of people skipping out on their cab has been getting worse in Charlottetown.
And there’s little recourse for taxi drivers when it happens.
“You hit a brick wall because of the cost and time of trying to do something about it or getting somebody charged or chasing them down,” Harpham said.
“Drivers are getting ripped off on a constant basis now and nothing happens. But when we make a stand as a driver, we face the consequences.”Alan French, taxi driver
“Most of the time, it’s just not worth it.”
That’s why French says he felt he needed to take action by taking the men who refused to pay him to the police.
“There’s no recourse for us, and we’re getting ripped off constantly. And police are doing squat,” he said.
“I took a stand.”
Charlottetown Deputy Police Chief Gary McGuigan says there is an ongoing investigation into the incident.
He would not comment directly on the case, but did say he does not recommend other taxi drivers take the same action.
“(They should) get their fares upfront,” he said.
“That’s the advice I would give them. It’s the same as what’s happening at the gas pumps now. People are stealing gas, so they’re making them pay for their gas and then pumping it. So if that’s what’s happening with taxi drivers, and it does happen occasionally, if they’re leery of whether or not they’re going to get their fare, they should ask for it up front.”
Harpham says this is done occasionally, especially if a passenger is asking for a ride to a location well outside the city.
But he said a pay upfront policy would offend their regular customers, which he says make up 75 to 80 per cent of P.E.I.’s taxi business.
“There are far fewer cabs on Friday and Saturday nights because of this problem, in addition to all the abuse from drunk people,” Harpham said.
McGuigan said it has not yet been determined whether French will face unlawful confinement charges as a result of the incident Sunday morning.