Technology has come to the aid of Gainesville-area taxi companies and their drivers to help them stay safe.
Since Jan. 30, at least four incidents of violence against taxi drivers have been reported to Gainesville Police and the Hall County Sheriff’s Office.
“We always tell our drivers to stay alert and aware at all times,” said Esteban Olivas, general manager of Fiesta Cab. “We’re probably one of the most advanced cab companies out here, so we’ve got every driver on GPS as well as radio. We’re monitoring everyone 24/7.”
Mateo Rebollar of Taxi El Palmar said the radio system was changed to allow drivers to give location information.
“They just have to key in a couple of times without speaking, and we find out their location and we can call for assistance, like 911 and stuff like that,” Rebollar said.
On March 2, a Taxi El Palmar driver told police someone attempted to stab him multiple times. The man had a laceration across his chin and on both of his hands, according to the report.
According to the report, the driver was approached by a regular customer who requested a ride. When the driver stopped the car, the suspect attempted to stab him and stole his wallet, keys and cellphone.
Another taxi driver robbery was reported April 23 to Gainesville Police, and another person allegedly attempted to kidnap a child after being denied a ride April 14.
On Jan. 30, the Hall County Sheriff’s Office took a report of two armed men robbing a driver on Dunlap Street.
Police and the sheriff’s office have not updated the cases that did not lead to an immediate arrest.
All of the robberies reported to law enforcement since Jan. 30 happened between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.
“There’s definitely some areas where you just don’t want to be caught at overnight,” Olivas said.
Some of those areas included East and West Ridge roads as well as the area near Georgia Avenue.
“We don’t tell anyone to avoid them. We just (mean) be on high alert when you’re in that area,” Olivas said.
Rebollar said the change to the radio system came after one driver died in a fatal attempted armed robbery. Isaias Tovar-Murillo was found March 15, 2015, with a gunshot wound to the back of his head in the wooded area around Barrett and Dorsey Peek roads.
Five people were charged and later convicted. Ignacio Mondragon, Nicholas Allen Gonzalez and Justin John Adams, all of Gainesville, took a plea deal in that allowed them to avoid prosecution for felony murder.
Margarita Leanos of Gainesville was found guilty on charges of attempted armed robbery, conspiracy to commit armed robbery and violation of the Georgia Street Gang and Terrorism Prevention Act.
Misty Moran of Gainesville was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison without the chance for parole.
Olivas said the drivers, who are independent contractors, are advised to use their own discretion and contact the company’s dispatch team in case of emergency.
“Our dispatch team has the same people every shift, so they kind of have a clue of this house normally calls every single day at this time because they’re going to work or this person calls every single day,” he said. “So they kind of know who we’re picking up.”