Amelia Wade is a court reporter for the New Zealand Herald

Taken for a ride: Taxi drivers out of pocket

Cabbie’s costs $200 after woman does runner with $437 on meter.
Ishfaq Ahmed said the woman begged him to drive her to Huntly. Photo / Brett Phibbs / Dean Purcell
Ishfaq Ahmed said the woman begged him to drive her to Huntly. Photo / Brett Phibbs / Dean Purcell

Taxi drivers say that every weekend they're being ripped off by customers who do a runner and leave them out of pocket.

And they claim police don't do enough to help track down and prosecute offenders.

One driver was left with $437 on the meter when he drove a distressed woman from Auckland to Hamilton, before she disappeared into the night when it came to settling the bill.

Ishfaq Ahmed said he picked up the woman from a bus stop in Glenfield in the early hours of Sunday, February 13. It looked as if she had been hit, she didn't have shoes on and she begged him to pick her up because someone was "after her".

"I wanted to help her. But she told me she wanted to go to Huntly, I told her that was too far for me, but she begged."

The woman gave Mr Ahmed her phone and driver's licence as insurance. She told him her husband would pay when they got there.

They reached Huntly about 2am but she told him to keep going to SkyCity Hamilton Casino.

Mr Ahmed said he did not know what to do, but he had her phone and identification so he dropped her off. She promised to return with her husband who would pay.

But after 30 minutes, Mr Ahmed gave up waiting and drove to the Hamilton Central Police Station and reported the theft. Police told him he had to hand over the phone and licence.

The next morning, he got a text from the woman asking what she should do about the payment and where her things were. Mr Ahmed, who drives for Crown Cabs, gave her his account details and told her the items were at the police station.

When he called to follow up his complaint with police that day, he was told they had returned the phone and licence to the woman.

Mr Ahmed said the incident cost him about $200 in petrol and wasted levies.

Auckland Co-op Taxis head operator Mikey Beban said their drivers reported "runners" two to four times a week. Often their customers had phoned up requesting a lift, so they had contact details available to chase the fare up with.

Mr Beban said he tells drivers to return to the address the next day to chase the money up or leave a note.

And although every taxi had a security camera, getting access to the footage was more difficult than people realised, Mr Beban said.

Manager of Crown Cabs Khalil Tajek said customers ran out on their taxis a couple of times a night at the weekends but they didn't keep official records on the incidents.

Usually, people would jump out of the taxi near their house then run down side streets, shortcuts or jump over fences so the driver couldn't chase them.

"It's very hard for drivers. They can wait for three hours for a passenger, then drive them somewhere for $80 or something, but then they run and there's nothing they can do."

A spokeswoman at Police National Headquarters said police would need to gather further information to gauge whether Mr Ahmed's complaint was a civil matter.

- NZ Herald

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