NYC cab drivers trained to spot hookers

Posted at 6:02 PM, Jan 03, 2013
and last updated 2013-01-03 18:02:53-05

Taxis and traffic usually go together. But taxis and sex-trafficking, well that’s not nearly as common.

But from now on all taxi and livery drivers will have to watch a nine-minute video on sex-trafficking awareness before they can receive or renew their licenses.

“Sex trafficking is a serious problem, it’s not a victimless crime and we want to make sure that taxi drivers, car-service drivers are not participating,” said David Yassky, commissioner of the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

That’s why Yassky says the TLC is now teaching drivers the do’s and don’ts of picking up prostitutes.

The TLC video comes less than a year after a father and son were charged with running a sex-trafficking ring that used livery cabs to transport victims, sometimes even using the cabs like they were private bedrooms.

Taxi drivers will not be on the hook for picking up hookers. In fact, drivers who turn down fares even if they know the customer is a prostitute could face a fine.  What this new video explains is that drivers simply cannot be knowing participants in sex-trafficking.

Veteran taxi driver Charles Voltus says he thinks the video is a good way to keep other drivers out of trouble.

“For the best of our industry it’s good for the driver to know not to put themselves in a situation like that,” he said.

The video on sex-trafficking awareness warns drivers they still can’t deny someone a fare based on appearance, which means they’ll still be able to pick-up prostitutes, the just can’t knowingly take them to the johns.

“It’s a joke, to me it’s a joke, but I have to watch it according to the TLC and I will,” said taxi driver Ed Stover.

David Pollack, executive director of the Committee for Taxi Safety agrees.  Pollack says telling taxi drivers not to participate in sex-trafficking is just common sense.  He says requiring drivers to watch the video on their own is just another headache for what he calls an over-regulated industry.

“Taxi drivers don’t have to be reminded not to commit a crime, New Yorkers are smarter than that,” Pollack said.

Taxi riders PIX11 spoke to say they had no idea there was a problem with sex-trafficking and taxis, but they say they’re happy to know the TLC is doing what it can to prevent it from happening.

“It makes me very proud to be a New Yorker and I think we’re all in it together to end something as horrible as sex-trafficking that takes place here in the U.S.,” said rider Tricia Doughty.