Undercover police find fake taxi drivers operating in Northamptonshire town centres
Warning for night-time revellers to check before getting in a cab
Undercover police have identified bogus taxi drivers operating illegally in Northamptonshire's town centres.
An operation launched following the easing of Covid restrictions last month saw more uniformed and non-uniformed officers patrolling nightspots to prevent sexual offending.
But the officer in charge of Operation Kayak revealed that has shed light on a few instances where people have masqueraded as taxi drivers but are, in fact, operating illegally.
Detective Inspector Liz Basham said: “Officers on Operation Kayak patrols are seeking to identify those displaying predatory or suspicious behaviour like loitering, leering, sexual harassment and inappropriate touching and when they see it, they will act quickly.
"This includes anybody purporting to be a licensed taxi driver.
“Ideally you should pre-book your taxi through a reputable company but if you do hail a taxi on the street or get in a cab at the taxi rank, always check there’s a taxi licence on display - take a look at it and make sure it looks professional. If there’s no licence, don’t take that taxi.
“If you see someone acting suspiciously, please call Northamptonshire Police on 101 or 999 in an emergency or approach an officer. If you are out and feel unsafe you can also speak to the nearest pub or club staff member for assistance, too.”
The problem is exacerbated by there being fewer taxis on the streets than before the Covid-19 pandemic.
Department for Transport figures show 824 vehicles were licensed to operate in Northampton at the end of March .Of those, 110 were traditional taxis which can be hailed from the street, while 714 were private hire vehicles, such as those available through Uber, which need to be pre-booked.
That figure was down from 833 in 2020 when there were 111 taxis and 722 vehicles for private hire.
The National Private Hire and Taxi Association says a huge drop in numbers of licensed vehicles across England is down to lack of government financial support for the industry.
Operation Kayak is a joint effort with officers working alongside CCTV operators, Community Safety Partnerships, door staff, fast food outlets and others working in the night-time economy.
Nightclubs were able to reopen for the first time in 17 months during July while pubs were able to ditch table service and return to "vertical drinking" after the government removed remaining restrictions in force during the Covid pandemic.
But that sparked concerns that those hitting the town may have 'forgotten' how to stay safe on a night out.
Among the tips for travelling safely by taxi are to to check the condition of any car which arrives for a pick-up, check they know where they are going as licensed drivers are required required to have knowledge of the local area and only get into a proper Hackney carriage if you hail a taxi on the street.