Durham Plans to Shield Cabbies from Violence
Posted August 19, 1998 7:00 a.m. EDT
DURHAM — Most Durham cab drivers say they're tired of constantly looking over their shoulders. They have good reason to. Last year, two Durham cab drivers were murdered. But not every driver is buying the city's plan to shield them from violence.
It's already become law in places like New York and Washington, D.C. Now, driving a cab in Durham has become so dangerous, city council members must decide if their cab drivers should become "bulletproof."
Some see them as moving targets and easy prey. Taxi cab operators drive throughout the city during all hours of the day and night with cash, a car and very little protection.
But bulletproof shields that separate cab drivers from passengers are making some feel much safer behind the wheel. Cab driver Abdul Jalil Burnette used to worry about being robbed.
"We need the shield because a cab driver got killed not too long ago," Burnette explained. "And so, that makes us need the shield to protect ourselves from people with guns, people with anything to harm us."
The murders of two Durham cab drivers last year raised concerns about cab driver protection. There are about 80 cabs on the streets of Durham. About one-third of those have voluntarily installed the partitions. Durham City Council members want to make it a requirement in all cabs.
"It's necessary at this point to protect the lives of the drivers," said Floyd McKissick. "I think it is something that gives us a great deal of concern."
"It does offer some degree of safety, but along with that comes some inconveniences that most people aren't aware of," driver Kwa Kao Shakur pointed out.
Some say the shields can be too much of a barrier, isolating passengers and making it difficult to keep the back seat air-conditioned. There's also the cost.
"I think that it's absolutely cost effective," said driver Zaheer Bajwa. "There's no doubt in my mind."
The taxi cab subcommittee approved the ordinance proposal that would make it a requirement to put the shields in all the taxi cabs. The Durham City Council is expected to act on the measure in the next two to three months.
The cost of the partitions is about $250 to 350 for each cab.