Business / Industries

HK police combat 'black taxis'

By Joseph Li in Hong Kong (China Daily) Updated: 2012-11-16 09:57

Police are taking very seriously the growing problem of "black taxis" that have victimized many tourists in Hong Kong - drivers who speed away with personal belongings of passengers, as soon as the fare is paid.

Police plan to carry out a public awareness campaign for both drivers and passengers to augment increased law enforcement.

Speaking after a meeting with Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong legislator Elizabeth Quat, tourism constituency lawmaker Wayne Yiu, and concerned government departments, Undersecretary for Security John Lee said "black taxis" have emerged with crooked taxi drivers stealing the property of passengers after they had alighted to check their baggage and also charged passengers excessive fares.

Police have arrested five people in connection with the thefts. Two have been convicted. One was ordered to spend five months in prison, the other is serving a community service order. "Police attach very great importance to such cases by assigning the Crimes Unit and enhancing law enforcement at notorious tourist spots," he said.

Lee warned that theft is a very serious offence that carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment. He also called on passengers to protect themselves by jotting down the vehicle registration number and the details of the driver. It is also advisable to get a receipt because it contains useful information such as the vehicle registration number, date and time of the taxi journey.

There is no sign of syndicated crime, only individual "black sheep" taxi drivers, he added.

Lawmaker Elizabeth Quat arranged the meeting by convening officials from the Security Bureau, Police, Transport and Housing Bureau, Transport Department and the Tourism Commission.

In view of the growing problem, she said she had disguised herself as a mainland tourist, carrying a suitcase and shopping bags to wait for taxis at the popular tourists' spot at Canton Road on Sunday.

She took three taxi rides, every time saying she was going to Hung Hom Railway Station. The first two drivers charged according to the taxi meter, HK$34 ($4.39). The third driver charged her without referring to the meter.

"The third driver broke the law by not using the meter and charging an excessive fare, though it was not too much higher," she said.

The penalty for charging excessive taxi fares is a HK$5,000 to HK$10,000 fine, or a six-month jail term, she noted. However, the courts usually hand down fines of several hundred dollars, which she says is too light a penalty.

For the benefit of passengers, she suggested adding the telephone number for complaints alongside the name of driver and vehicle registration number posted inside the taxi.

She also noted that at the airport, staff jot down the vehicle number, date and time on a pre-printed card with useful telephone numbers and pass it to passengers. She said she thinks this is helpful and should also be done at the railway station and tourism spots.

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