When a passenger held a knife to his throat three years ago, Muhammad Azeez stopped driving taxi for a month. He's still too scared to work the night shift.
Azeez is not alone. According to a 2011 survey, Toronto's iTaxiworkers Association reported more than half of the respondents had been assaulted, and 70 per cent felt in physical danger while driving.
Many cities believe partitions in cabs are the best way to protect drivers. But new research from the U.S. shows that dashboard cameras, not partitions, are most effective at reducing taxi driver homicides.
These findings come amid a city-wide review of the taxi industry. Three Toronto drivers were stabbed in one week earlier this year, despite the requirement of cameras in cabs. The review will also assess the feasibility of adding partitions.
Azeez believes that might be the best option. "Maybe a partition would have stopped him putting a knife to my throat," he says of his assailant. "The camera takes a picture, but a partition actually shields you from a person with a gun or knife."
Crimes against taxi drivers dropped 75 per cent after cameras became mandatory in Toronto cabs in 2005. But the murder rate involving cab drivers still remains the highest of all occupations.
Following the brutal murder of driver Mahmood Bhatti by a passenger in 2006, Councillor Janet Davis brought forward a motion to approve partitions. It passed, and the idea is currently under review.