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West Hollywood city officials are asking people to avoid getting into illegal taxicabs because the drivers haven’t paid for the proper permits and are unregulated. Meanwhile, taxi drivers who are legitimate and pay the fees are upset that no real enforcement is in place to catch or run out the “bandit taxis.”
Lt. David Smith with the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Department said they are aware of the problem with illegal taxis, “but it’s more of a city code enforcement issue.”
Jackie Rocco, a parking manager with the City of West Hollywood, said there was a joint enforcement effort one night a few weeks ago, where the city worked with the police. It netted a few citations and arrests.
But the city can only do so much, she said.
“Only a police officer can arrest someone and impound a car,” Rocco said.
There are seven cab companies that are franchised with the city, and 520 taxis are allowed to operate in West Hollywood. Cab companies pay an annual fee of $1,215 for each car in their fleet.
These are the taxis that respond to service calls from dispatch or park in certain areas, like in front of hotels in the Sunset Strip area.
Then there is the shadow fleet that can look similar in make, model and colors, and could even have fake permits. They tend to show up later at night, when bars are closing. They pick up people who might be waiting for a cab from one of the legitimate companies.
While Rocco said bandit cabs are everywhere, there isn’t an estimate on how many sneak in under the radar and operate in the city. In Los Angeles, it is estimated there are about 2,000 illegal cabs.
Permitted cab drivers are directly affected by bandit cabs and are losing business to the illegal cabs who, some cab drivers have said, number in the fifties on a Friday or Saturday night.
“It’s a mess over here, said Eddie, a cab driver who declined to give his last name, for fear of retribution. “And no one wants to do anything about it.”
While the City of Los Angeles has a task force and the Los Angeles Board of Taxicab Commissioners, the Department of Transportation, West Hollywood does not have a similar agency.
Vlad, another cab driver who withheld his last name, said he is fed up trying to get the authorities to do anything.
“We pay all this money for the city, and we get short changed,” Vlad said.
West Hollywood has franchise agreements with seven companies — Bell Cab Company, Beverly Hills Cab Company, Checker Cab Company, City Cab, Independent Cab Company, United Independent Cab Company and Yellow Cab.
For more information on franchised taxi companies, visit www.weho.org
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