Taxi drivers plea to police

IPSWICH taxi drivers are today calling on police to take a "zero tolerance" line towards the drunken yobs who make their working life a nightmare.They say the number of taxi and private hire vehicle drivers working nights has plummeted by 25 per cent over the past year, as the drivers are no longer prepared to put up with the abuse.

IPSWICH taxi drivers are today calling on police to take a "zero tolerance" line towards the drunken yobs who make their working life a nightmare.

They say the number of taxi and private hire vehicle drivers working nights has plummeted by 25 per cent over the past year, as the drivers are no longer prepared to put up with the abuse.

The call comes as Ipswich is named as one of the 77 areas of England and Wales taking part in the Home Office's crackdown on drink-related violence.

Eric Pearl, secretary of the Ipswich Taxi Drivers Association, said: "The Ipswich taxi trade is calling on the police to get tough on the small number of drunken yobs who are giving our town a bad name."

He called on Suffolk police to "regain control of our streets late at night" and to "place more officers on late-night patrols".

But a top Suffolk police officer, Chief Inspector Chris Mayhew, insisted that tackling drink-related violence is a top priority.

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He also pointed out that thanks to new legislation, the police are now able to issue fixed penalty notices against people found committing a first-time drunk and disorderly offence.

Mr Pearl said the most common problems licensed drivers face are "verbal abuse", "people damaging the vehicles" and minor assaults such as "a little punch on the chin".

He said: "This sort of thing happens two or three times a week. The drivers feel the police think the abuse is part and parcel of our job.

"My understanding is that there has been around 130 incidents involving licensed drivers in the past six months."

"This abuse is one of the reasons why people have difficulty getting a taxi in the town - because the drivers are reluctant to work [at night].

"Last year there were over 200 licensed drivers working after 6pm, but this year it is down to around 150 and next year we estimate it will be around 100."

Chief Inspector Chris Mayhew said the police are aware of the drivers' concerns and added that police patrol the three main town centre taxi ranks at the time the nightclubs close.

He said: "Tackling alcohol related violence and disorder is one of our main priorities in Ipswich.

"We work closely with taxi drivers and we have a community support officer who is specifically assigned to liaise with the taxi companies.

"Those who commit an offence will be arrested and dealt with accordingly.

"New legislation also allows us to use fixed penalty notices to deal with first time offences of drunk and disorderly behaviour."

What do you think about the licensed drivers' plight? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk or visit the forum at www.eveningstar.co.uk

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