Oslo police already have vastly increased their presence on the streets of the capital, to battle a rising tide of rape and other forms of violence. Now they’re also resuming their fight against the drivers of illegal so-called “pirate taxis,” who offer rides late at night.
“Of the pirate taxi drivers we caught a few years ago, more than half had convictions for violence,” Bjørn Åge Hansen, chief of the downtown police station in Oslo, told newspaper Aftenposten. “Some of them even had rape convictions.”
One of the two additional rapes reported over the past weekend involved the driver of a pirate taxi, as did two others earlier this year. Police have also received several reports of pirate taxi drivers robbing their customers.
Warnings have gone out against taking non-registered taxis home after a night on the town, but for some patrons, many of them intoxicated, the temptation is apparently too great when public transit has stopped running and no other taxis are available.
They’re taking a big risk, claim police and volunteers for the civilian foot patrol organization Natteravner. “One thing is that the drivers are conducting illegal, unlicensed business and competing against those who are driving legally,” Hansen told Aftenposten. “Another thing is that the pirate taxis are arenas for many forms of crime.”
“We recommend pure and simple that folks don’t take pirate taxis,” the police station chief added. “You can’t even be sure the drivers have a driving license.”
It’s not easy arresting those who commit crimes. Many of the drivers are believed to come from eastern European countries where no visa for Norway is necessary and they don’t stay in Norway very long, maybe only a few months. Logistics and the need for evidence also make it hard for police to file charges against suspected pirate drivers.
“We have to rely on the passengers confirming that they have paid for the taxi ride, and they’re not always cooperative late at night,” Hansen said. Drivers who are caught, though, face having the license plates taken off their cars for three months and getting a fine for NOK 8,000 (about USD 1,400).
The police will have officers on duty next weekend to track down pirate taxis, an effort applauded by the legitimate taxi companies. They wish the police could invoke harsher punishment, though.
“We want them to seize the vehices,” Lars Dolva of Oslo Taxi told Aftenposten. “Then we could be more certain that the pirate taxis are off the streets.”
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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