Pubdate: August 3, 1999
Source: Prince Rupert Daily News (Canada)
Copyright: 1999 Sterling Newspapers Ltd.
Contact:  801 Second Ave.West, Prince Rupert, B.C., V8J-3R9
Fax: 250-624-2851
Author: Edward Walton, Daily News Staff


City cab drivers could face increased vehicle inspections and fines if they
continue to shuttle junkies to pick up their latest fix, says a local
narcotics officer.

"The cab drivers know what's going on, and we know they know because we're
catching junkies in the cabs," said Const. Scott Bradley. "We can (put a
stop to chauffeuring drug addicts) the dirty way or we can do it the nice
way and say, 'Please don't do this.'" The dirty way, according to Bradley,
is to step-up inspections, catching cabbies for niggling offences that
might otherwise be overlooked. And while it's not the desired route the
RCMP wish to take, Bradley said police will get tough if cooperation isn't
found. "We'll make it costly to pick up that fare - we can do that," he
said. "The regulations under the Motor Vehicle Act and the regulations for
taxis are very severe. There's always a way to find a flaw in a taxi."
Skeena Taxi, Prince Rupert's only cab company, must take a stand to curb
the escalation of a drug problem that's seen two fatal heroin overdoses in
almost as many months, said Bradley.

A cab driver also met with an addict's knife in June, sending the driver to
Vancouver General Hospital with a cut throat and severe lacerations to his

"It comes right down to taking some ownership of (the drug problem) in
Prince Rupert."

For the company's part, Skeena Taxi manager Bill Langthorne said Skeena has
been nothing but co-operative with RCMP, and will adhere to whatever
requests are made of the company.

However, he added it's not always easy to discriminate between passengers.
"We're not turning a blind eye, but we're not the police," said Langthorne,
who also questioned the legality of turning away some passengers and not
others. "We just had a cab driver stabbed quite bad, so we don't encourage
them or want them. But we don't have a choice - they don't wear labels."

 Even if a drug house, for example, was labelled off-limits by police,
Langthorne challenged the logic of not being able to drop a passenger off a
block away, as who's to argue with a passenger's ultimate destination. If
cab drivers wished to defy RCMP requests to cease driving addicts to known
drug houses for a fix, Bradley said it was their choice. However, he warned
that choice could also be costly. "(Giving tickets) will hit (cab drivers)
pretty hard below the belt," he said. "If you take $50 out of a cab
driver's pocket in one day - that's a lot of money."

One local cab driver, requesting anonymity for fear of retribution, said
drivers, while mostly deploring the actions of junkies and dealers, still
need to make a buck.

Bradley, however, said he was unsympathetic, as one can't condemn a problem
yet avoid responsibility from being part of the solution. 
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