Praise for 'cool' cabbie

LEIGHTON KEITH
Last updated 05:00 12/12/2013
tdn cab stand
SAM SCANNELL
New Plymouth taxi driver Gaylene Blackburn was robbed and assaulted nine years ago.

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A taxi driver who allegedly had a knife held to his throat during a robbery "did everything right" to avoid a tragedy, his colleagues say.

Increased security measures in the industry are being credited for the driver escaping unharmed and the quick recovery of his cab after the incident in Sanders Ave on Tuesday night.

New Plymouth Taxis chairman Richard Morse was pleased with how the driver, who has been in the industry for 16 years, dealt with the situation.

"He's kept his composure, he's done very well," Mr Morse said.

"He's done all of the right things. He's activated all of the emergency procedures correctly, he's kept his composure and he's avoided confrontation."

An Inglewood teenager appeared before Judge Allan Roberts in the New Plymouth District Court yesterday charged with aggravated robbery.

Keegan Jones, 19, is accused of holding the knife to the taxi driver's throat before taking off in his cab about 9.20pm on Tuesday.

Judge Roberts remanded Jones, who sobbed during his brief appearance, in custody until December 19.

Mr Morse said the driver, who was in his early 40s and had a family, was shaken but OK and was expected to return to work in the near future.

The cab had a GPS tracking system which allowed it to be quickly located and most of the possessions were recovered, he said.

While the company's cabs had cameras and GPS systems, Mr Morse said they were also investigating what other measures could be taken.

"We intend to try and look at another action point now."

Angela Reeves, managing director of Energy City Cabs, said the technology had improved safety for drivers.

"The cameras and all of the things that the industry have put in place are just wonderful, they really are, and they've helped reduce problems," Mrs Reeves said.

Despite the safety measures she said there would always be those who tried it on.

"So there is always going to be that slight area where we can't guarantee complete safety. It's just a shame, I just wish we could wipe it right out but it is not possible."

Mrs Reeves said news of a taxi driver being attacked sent shock waves through the industry.

"They get very concerned, everybody has got family.

"You do feel very frightened when you hear something has happened."

She said one of her drivers was assaulted last week and police were investigating.

Mrs Reeves said her thoughts were with the driver and his family.

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She said there had been some quite serious attacks on taxi drivers in Taranaki over the years.

In January 2009 a driver was beaten and left for dead in the boot of his Energy City taxi in Urenui.

His attacker, Raymond Edwards, was later jailed for 12 years and three months with a minimum non-parole period of six years and three months.

In 1989 a Waitara taxi driver was stabbed to death by two men and his body dumped at the Meeting of the Waters, just south of New Plymouth.

Taxi driver Gaylene Blackburn, who was assaulted and robbed nine years ago, told the Taranaki Daily News the robbery had not put her off driving.

"It doesn't worry me really but you have got to have your wits about you," Mrs Blackburn said.

"It's a bit of a worry because it could happen to any one of us."

She said the majority of people were good and it was only a few who ruined things.

"There's some nasty people out there and unfortunately sometimes the taxis are targeted."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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