June 17, 2013 Celeste Monforton, DrPH, MPH 3Comment

Uro Ama Orji, 54, a livery driver in Brooklyn, NY planned to spend Fathers’ Day, with his five children.  The family didn’t get the chance.  Three days earlier, Mr. Orji was fatally stabbed in the eye with an umbrella by a passenger.  He is the 17th cab driver this year killed on-the-job in the U.S.   A security camera at a nearby delicatessen captured some of the horrific attack.   Would a video camera inside his vehicle have deterred the criminal from assaulting him?

An analysis by researchers with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) suggest the answer is “yes.”  Their paper, “Effectiveness of Taxicab Security Equipment in Reducing Driver Homicide Rates,” was published this month in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.  They analyzed 15 years of data (1996-2010) from 26 large U.S. cities.  Eight of the localities had ordinances or industry practices that led to at least 70 percent of  taxicabs being equipped with security cameras.  (Those cities were Austin TX, Dallas TX, Houston TX, Las Vegas NV, Orlando FL, Portland OR, San Francisco CA and Seattle WA.)  Another seven cities had at least 70 percent of taxicabs fitted with bullet-proof partitions which separate the driver from the passengers.  Eleven other large municipalities without camera- or partition-equipped cabs were used as the reference cities.

Among other things, the authors assessed changes over time in cab driver-specific homicide rates before and after bullet-resistant partitions and cameras were installed.  In the cities with taxicabs equipped with cameras, and after adjusting for each cities’ change in overall homicide rates, they reported the cab driver-specific homicide rate was 3.7 times lower in the post-installation period.  Some of the cities’ ordinances, the authors note, require a decal be displayed inside the cab to alert passengers they are under camera surveillance.   The installation of bullet-proof partitions, in contrast, was not associated with a change in driver homicide rates.  The authors write that this finding was “unexpected.”   Bullet-resistant partitions are:

“designed to give more power to the driver than to the passenger in regard to control of physical space.  Additionally, it separates the target (cash held by driver) from the perpetrator.”

As reported, however, in 2010 in the Chicago Tribune

“But many drivers say the partitions are useless. Most don’t keep the partitions closed because they’re cumbersome and restrict ventilation. And they say the partitions are awkward for passengers, who scrape their knees as they get in and out of the vehicles, and for drivers, who can’t move their seats back.  In the end, cabdrivers say, the partitions didn’t prevent crime.  ‘If someone wanted to rob me, they’ll get out, come to the passenger side and shoot me,’ said Folarin Odusanya, 48, who has driven a taxi in Chicago for 20 years.”

In response to the fatal assault last week on Mr. Orji, Fernando Mateo with a taxi driver’s union told the New York Times

“’Our drivers get robbed and assaulted every single day.’  He said that about 300 assaults and robberies of taxi drivers occurred in New York City every month, and that 10 percent of livery-cab fares are lost because passengers flee without paying.”

The reporter explained that Mr. Orjji moved to New York City from Nigeria about a decade ago.  He worked long hours as a cabdriver.   His sister-in-law told CBS New York :

“He was a very dedicated, loving father.  An innocent man who was just working hard to make sure his kids eat. Everything he wanted to do was take care of his children. It’s horrible.”

Under New York City laws, livery vehicles are supposed to be equipped with a bullet proof partition or an approved surveillance camera system.  One news report indicated that Mr. Orji’s vehicle—-likely his personal vehicle—had neither.    The peril of a parent trying to make ends meet.



3 thoughts on “Security cameras in taxicabs, not partitions, reduce homicide rates for cab drivers

  1. A great reminder of why it’s important to do research, even when it seems like the impact of an intervention (e.g., partitions in taxicabs) is a no-brainer!

  2. 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.

  3. Of course it has been done in order for more control of the population. They create the cause and the effect. After one case with murdered driver, which they created , now you will be watched and recorded even in the cabs. Congrats.

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