'Bandit taxis' targeted in city sting

Peace officers handed out $15,000 in fines during a Friday night crackdown on illegal taxis in Edmonton.

Peace officers handed out $15,000 in fines during a Friday night crackdown on illegal taxis in Edmonton, it was announced Monday.

Some were taxis licensed in other municipalities, while others were drivers using their family cars to pick up passengers.

"They just have a sign in their window and by word-of-mouth people get their number and we had a number of those that we called," said the city's chief livery officer, Phil Fearon. 

On Friday night, peace officers and other city officials set up shop in two Edmonton hotels and started calling some of the so-called "bandit taxis" asking for a ride to the airport or the Fringe Festival.

Some of the drivers and companies turned them down. The ones who showed up received fines ranging from $250 to $1,000. When there is an infraction, drivers, the companies that they work for and the owners of cars can all face fines.

"Some of those operators walked away or drove away Friday night with $3,000 in violation tickets," Fearon said. A total of 26 tickets were issued.

Unlicensed taxis can be unsafe for passengers to ride in, said Leon Lubin, vice-chairman of the Vehicle for Hire Commission.

"We're concerned about the safety of the people of Edmonton," he said. "And in serving the public, we're concerned about their safety and ensuring they are in licensed vehicles that are mechanically sound and driven by people who are trained."

"If there were to be an accident, they're not licensed, they wouldn't be insured and there would be a great deal of liability," he said.

Legitimate cabs have a taxi licence attached to the front of the vehicle and operator licences displayed inside.

The city issued 28 tickets worth $22,000 during a similar sting in June. The city has not released the names of the drivers or the companies that were charged in the latest sting.