NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — New York City is cracking down on illegal activities on the street, the things that gear up as night clubs close.
In parts of the city where nightlife is pulsing, competition for a cab can get fiercer than a fashion show runway, angling for a ride home turns into a contact sport for drivers and riders.
Stealthy cars for hire have also made their way into the mix. Despite a law that says that those drivers are only supposed to pick up prearranged customers, many of them pull over when a rider puts an arm out.
The city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission is now cracking down on dangerous and illegal pick-ups.
CBS 2’s Dave Carlin was given exclusive access to an undercover operation that featured TLC officers posing as club goers and hailing for-hire cabs. They slapped the drivers with ticket after ticket and hauled in car after car.
Ari Maslawi of Queens works during the day refinishing doors. he told Carlin that on some nights he uses his car to pick up fares. His insurance does not cover paying passengers.
Maslawi said he thinks the undercover operation is illegal.
“They’re not legal, they trick me. They say take me there, thirty-dollars. That’s not legal,” he said.
The city says that drivers of illegal cabs have to be stopped. Without background checks or drug testing, illegal drivers could be putting passengers at risk.
As part of the crackdown, enforcement officers are out seven days a week. They have issued 36,000 tickets in the past eight months, officials said.
Sometimes, encounters between TLC officers and illegal drivers can turn ugly. Drivers have been known to refuse to hand over their keys and, worse, when confronted.
“I’ve been assaulted. I’ve had weapons taken out on me. But it’s part of the territory and that’s what I signed up for,” Deputy Chief Edwin Lorenzi said.
Drivers told CBS 2 that the TLC goes too far.
“I did wrong because I picked them up on the street so I should get those two tickets, but my car shouldn’t be taken away so I can keep working, try to pay those tickets off,” one driver said.
Officers seized a long line of Lincoln Town Cars and Mercedes and sent them to the impound lot, officials said.
The drivers were left on the curb, with no vehicle and a $350 fine plus a $180 towing fee. If they are caught picking up a street hail three times, they can lose their cars for good, officials said.
Maslawi told CBS 2 that he has already been busted a couple of times.
Officials said that putting the illegal cabs out of business is only half the battle. They also need to teach the public to not hail the illegal cars.
“If you are going to flag down a car it’s gotta be a yellow taxi or, outside Manhattan, a Green Boro taxi once those hit the streets,” TLC Commissioner David Yassky said.
The city said that undercover operations will continue and accelerate as they gear up for the roll out of the new Green Boro taxis.
Have you ever hailed an illegal cab for a ride? Let us know in our comments section below…