Taxicab Commission attempts to root out fraudulent drivers

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The City’s Taxicab Commission hopes to crack down on the fraudulent use of taxi permits, as well as a problem with illegal taxis and limousines, through the hiring of a new investigator.

A recent audit of San Francisco’s taxi industry “uncovered massive fraud” by some cabdrivers, who are not fulfilling a requirement that they drive at least 800 hours a year to qualify for one of The City’s approximately 1,400 permits, called “medallions.”

Although medallion holders are allowed to rent their permit out to other drivers when they are not using it, the audit confirmed what many in the taxi industry have claimed for some time — that the holders are not actually out picking up passengers, but are falsifying documents to make it appear so. Meanwhile, they’re making money around the clock by taking a cut from the actual taxi drivers who pay to use the coveted permit.

At a Taxicab Commission meeting Tuesday night, a proposal to hire two investigators was presented, although according to a staff report, the regulatory agency has enough work for four. Under an amendment by Commissioner Malcolm Heinicke, the governing board voted 4-3 to begin with just one investigator for next year.

Thomas George-Williams, chairman of the United Taxicab Workers, told The Examiner on Wednesday that he was disappointed with the vote.

“Everybody in the industry knows there are medallion holders that never drive a cab,” George Williams said. “They try to hide it. That’s why we need investigators to catch them.”

The investigator will also be charged with rooting out illegal limousines and taxis that pick up passengers in The City without having a permit — a problem described as “rampant” in a staff report for the commission members.

The commission put off a proposal, until Feb. 27, to grant an additional 100 medallions in order to get more permitted taxicabs on San Francisco’s streets, in response to data revealing a 50 percent no-show rate for dispatch requests and other problems believed to be due to a lack of taxi availability.

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