Halifax taxi complaints double between 2013 and 2014
Dartmouth-based Bob's Taxi had about one-third of the complaints over a 3-year period
Taxi drivers are accused of cutting off people, swearing at them, giving them the finger, refusing to pick them up and even propositioning passengers for sex, a CBC News analysis of three years of complaints has found.
Nearly 500 complaints were registered with the city between July 2012 and July 2015. They're contained in a database obtained by CBC News through freedom of information requests.
The bulk of the complaints — 154 — involve drivers for Bob's Taxi and its sister company, Blue Bell Taxi. Casino Taxi, the largest cab company, had 94 and Yellow Cab had 87 complaints. Satellite Taxi had 47.
Fare disputes, offensive behaviour
Most involve fare disputes, disruptive or offensive behaviour, and driving complaints.
"One of their cab drivers ran a stop sign and just about hit another car which then swerved, forcing me to swerve over and just about go off the road," Cindy Howell told CBC News about an incident involving a driver for Bob's Taxi in 2014.
She also accuses one of its drivers of overcharging her for a trip from north-end Dartmouth to Dartmouth Crossing.
Other complaints are more disturbing.
In 2014, a Satellite Taxi driver was accused of offering passengers $140 in exchange for oral sex. According to the complaint, the driver made the request several times during the same trip, even opening a wallet to show them the money. It says the receipt for the fare had a car number that did not exist.
Gilbert Dib, the owner of Satellite Taxi, says the company investigated but determined it was not one of its drivers.
"I think that specific vehicle was working for a different cab company," he said, adding it would be easy for someone to photocopy a Satellite receipt and write down a fake car number.
City staff also referred the matter to police.
A RCMP spokesperson told CBC News a file was opened, but the investigation stalled after a witness and the alleged victim did not provide interviews, despite multiple efforts by officers to obtain them.
Kevin Hindle, the regional coordinator for licence standards, says all complaints are reviewed and about 80 per cent are investigated by a compliance officer. He says about a quarter of those result in stiff action.
"It could be a revocation of [a] licence, a suspension or a summary offence ticket," he said.
Hindle says all complaints related to criminal activity including sexual harassment and sexual assault are referred to police.
One Casino customer complained in 2013 that a driver started rubbing the passenger's back and neck.
Brian Herman, the president and operations manager of Casino Taxi, did not recall the complaint of inappropriate touching when asked by CBC News, but he says the company's policy is clear.
"From a cab driver's perspective, under no circumstances should you lay hands on a passenger unless that request is coming from the passenger," he said. "That would be an immediate suspension right away pending a driver's response."
He said the only scenario he could see where contact would be acceptable is if a customer asks for help getting in or out of a cab.
With 380 vehicles, Casino is the largest cab company in the city. Herman estimates it has fired between five and 10 drivers for various reasons during the last three years.
Accusations of sexual assaultIn May, a driver working for Bob's Taxi was charged after police say he sexually assaulted a 26-year-old female passenger inside his vehicle.
The municipality's licensing standards division suspended Bassam Aladin AlRawi while his court case proceeds. However, an appeals committee comprised of six councillors reinstated him with conditions.
He is only allowed to drive between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. and must have a camera installed in his vehicle. The footage can only be obtained by police.
CBC News requested an interview with an owner or manager of Bob's Taxi, about the number of complaints facing the company and drivers, but was not granted one.
Complaints can now be filed through 311
The annual number of complaints against all cab companies doubled between 2013 and 2014. Hindle says one reason is calls are now handled through the city's 311 centre, which makes filing a complaint easier.
Dave Buffett, the head of the Halifax Taxi Drivers Owners Association, says his members have been handing out business cards, urging customers to call 311 if they have a bad experience.
"We want people to know that if they have a complaint that they should call 311, note the roof light number, which is vital and explain what their concern is," he said.
With files from Rachel Ward