Cabbie’s shooting death drives fear into colleagues

TAXI operators, some expressing fear as they carried passengers from Washington Boulevard to other sections of the city, staged a protest Friday against Thursday’s murder and suspected robbery of colleague Courtney Clarke.

The taxi operators, who did not hide that they are scared, asked for prayers as they spoke of the dangers while transporting passengers.

They said close to noon on Thursday, Clarke was sitting in his white Toyota Probox motor car on Washington Boulevard, close to the Boulevard Shopping Centre, when gunmen shot him before escaping on foot.

A small gathering of Clarke’s colleagues, standing near where he was killed, demanded that gunmen and thieves stop targeting them.

According to a man who gave his name only as Leonard, a taxi operator on the Half-Way-Tree to Duhaney Park route, taximen were scared before Thursday’s killing but are now far more afraid than before.

“Mi done scared already and now mi extra scared. We are working in fear as we transport hard-working Jamaicans. Lack of knowledge cause you to kill your black brother. Mi see the changes in the people. Please, nuh mek we be so fearful. It coming like randomly, anyone a we can just dead innocently,” he said.

The slain cab operator, he said, was loved as no one had anything bad to say about him. “We hear that people were trying to rob him and he probably put up resistance. They shot him and ran off. I did not even go back to work after the incident,” Leonard said.

According to Egeton Newman, president of the Transport Operators Development Sustainable Services (TODSS), another taxi operator had also been killed Thursday night on Windward Road in Kingston.

Newman said it is time now for public transport operators to embrace a cashless system to limit the likelihood of them being robbed. “The gunmen are going after cash. Taxi operators keep $10,000, $15,000 and $20,000 in their pockets and between their fingers and the gunmen know this. We need the cashless system. Since 2008 we have been discussing a cashless system,” Newman said.

He added: “The sector has been turning a blind eye to it and it is hitting home more forcefully now. We have to go look at that and see how best we can work on something. Since the start of the year we have lost 10 operators. We lost 57 last year and if we continue on the same trend we are going to get to over 100 operators by the end of the year. It is not easy to investigate the causes of some of these deaths. If the person was robbed, we consider it robbery. In most of these cases the operators were emptied of their cash and their vehicles were taken away.”

A stakeholder in the public passenger vehicle industry who requested anonymity claimed there may very well be the possibility that some operators are involved in illegal activities.

“Some taximen are not as clean as you would anticipate. Some of them are one-day drivers and they are involved in activities otherwise,” the source said.

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