Uber blitz in Ottawa after taxi drivers release vigilante-style video
Police say blitz was done because city asked for help on Uber issue, not because of video
Ottawa police and bylaw officers from the City of Ottawa teamed up to lay 32 charges against Uber drivers during a blitz on Thursday after taxi drivers released a vigilante-style video offering evidence against the ride-sharing.
The charges came after the group of five taxi drivers released the video on YouTube, in which they ordered Uber rides and secretly filmed them to gather evidence against the drivers.
But police said Friday that the enforcement blitz was not in response to the video.
"This was done in response to the city asking earlier this summer about getting some help ... to the bylaw section to address the Uber issue," said Ottawa police spokesman Const. Marc Soucy.
"But it has nothing to do with what those taxi drivers did. On top of that, the chief [police Chief Charles Bordeleau] has even said he does not support what those taxi drivers did. He would prefer they not do it ... because we can't act just on the videos."
More blitzes are being planned, Soucy added.
The 32 charges laid Thursday include:
- 10 charges of operating without a taxi licence.
- 10 charges of operating an unlicensed taxi.
- Eight Highway Traffic Act offences including failing to surrender insurance information, using a handheld device, obstructing licence plates and more.
- Four court summonses were also issued for repeat offenders on two charges of operating an unlicensed taxi and two charges of operating without a taxi licence.
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson denounced the drivers' actions this week, saying it only hurts the cause of taxi drivers in their battle with Uber.
Watson likened the actions to those of "thugs," which led to a war of words between the mayor and driver Roy Noja, who called the mayor a "puppet of Uber."
The city said that for safety reasons, people shouldn't collect their own evidence to assist bylaw investigations. Instead, residents should call 311. The city also said video footage on its own can't be used to lay charges against Uber drivers because the bylaw department would still need to conduct its own investigation.
Watson has expressed sympathy for those who earn a living driving taxis, but he added bylaw officials should take care of evidence gathering.
With Thursday's charges, the city has laid 142 taxi bylaw charges against Uber drivers since October 2014.
So far, 37 drivers pleaded guilty to 74 charges with fines totaling more than $22,000, according to bylaw officials.
On August 6 <a href="https://twitter.com/OttawaPolice">@OttawaPolice</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/OttawaBylaw">@OttawaBylaw</a> conducted a joint enforcement project targeting Uber drivers—32 charges laid. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ottnews?src=hash">#ottnews</a>—@OttawaPolice
Joint enforcement targeting Uber resulted in 10 charges for Operate without taxi license $615 and 10 charges for Unlicensed taxi cab $260.—@OttawaPolice