Slashing of cabbie comes amid calls for increased driver safety

A man slashed a taxi driver with a knife after getting kicked out of an east Hamilton bar, police say.

A man slashed a taxi driver with a knife after getting kicked out of an east Hamilton bar, police say.

Around 1:10 a.m. Saturday, staff at a bar near the intersection of Kenilworth Avenue North and Dunsmure Road ejected a patron who was "involved in a number of disturbances," said Scott Balinson, a staff sergeant with the Hamilton Police Service.

Once outside, the man approached a group of four taxi drivers who were standing outside their cabs while on break. Then, Balinson said, "an unprovoked confrontation took place."

The assailant allegedly brandished a knife, cutting one of the drivers on his leg and his arm.

EMS officials treated the victim's injuries on scene, but did not take him to hospital.

"Alcohol was a factor" in the slashing, Balinson said.

Police arrested the suspect, a 37-year-old male, who was later charged with assault with a weapon and failing to comply with a recognizance. His bail was opposed because he breached the terms of a previous release, Balinson said.

'Out of control'

The incident comes less than six weeks after a brutal attack that has sent shockwaves through Hamilton's taxi community.

On July 16, a passenger allegedly assaulted driver Anwar Sajad, 55, outside a townhouse complex on Limeridge Road. He suffered a dislocated shoulder, a broken pelvis and a broken leg in the incident.

Asif Abbas, a Hamilton cab driver who has spoken out on driver safety, said he's alarmed by what he sees as an uptick in "targeted" violence against cabbies.

"I'm disgusted about this and things are getting out of control," he said.

Asif Abbas said the city isn't doing enough to prevent assaults on cab drivers. (Matt Moir/CBC)

Hamitlon drivers, Abbas said, have faced increased harassment after the 19-year-old man accused of beating Sajad was released from police custody in late July on $5,000 bail.

"They feel they can trash the taxi drivers if they want to," Abbas said. "They think that we're weak."

Concerns for cabbie safety motivated Ward 4 councillor Sam Merulla to call for a bylaw that would require passengers to pay their fare upfront before their trip begins.

"This is not going to help us from being attacked," said Abbas, who says plastic shields should be installed in cabs to protect drivers from violent passengers. The bylaw, he added, wouldn't protect cabbies from assaults that occur outside of their vehicles.

Merulla is defending the proposed legislation. Assaults that take place outside a cab, he told CBC Hamilton on Saturday, typically occur after a driver chases down a passenger who has skipped out on the fare — an outcome the bylaw would render unlikely.

"It's just one variable of many that prevent these types of assaults from happening," he said, adding cabbies are trained not to leave their cars while working.

However, Merulla said it's impossible for politicians to create legislation that would eradicate violence completely, adding Saturday morning's attack may have been a case of a driver "being in the wrong place at the wrong time."