Council may restrict minors riding in taxisApr 19th, 2010 | By Chad West | Category: News
Youngsters may soon have a harder time catching a cab during the late-night hours if the St. Bernard Parish Council approves an amendment to the ordinance that governs taxi operation in the parish.
The council’s Executive/Finance Committee at its April 14 meeting voted to recommend to the full council an amendment to the ordinance that will prohibit cab drivers from transporting anyone under the age of 13 during the parish’s curfew hours unless the juvenile’s guardian is present at the pick up point.
“There has to be some mechanism for enforcing common sense,” District B representative George Cavignac said about the amendment. “No 11-year-old should be getting in a cab at 1 a.m.”
The impetus behind the ordinance amendment came near the first of the year when two local minor girls decided to run away late one night, Cavignac said. The girls hailed an Arabi Cab Company car and told the driver they were going to the airport. Before leaving the parish, though, they asked to stop at an ATM to get some cash.
“Then they wanted to go someplace else,” Arabi Cab Company owner Peter Rusck said. “Finally, after 45 minutes the driver asked if they were going to the airport or not.”
Rusck said by that time the driver suspected the girls had no intention of going to the airport and were merely running away. The driver offered to return the girls to the house where he had picked them up, Rusck said.
“We don’t want to go there. We want to get out,’” the girls said, according to Rusck.
The driver then put the girls out on Mehle Drive in Arabi, Rusck said.
“They made it as far as Jackson Barracks,” Cavignac said. “That’s when they panicked and called their parents.”
Working out the details
The legislation aimed at restricting teen access to taxis during curfew hours was introduced Jan. 15. According to the St. Bernard Parish Code of Ordinances, the curfew for minors in the parish runs from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Sunday through Thursday. For weekends, the curfew is midnight through 5 a.m. However, because public transportation guidelines prohibit any kind of discrimination, and because taxis are considered a type of public transportation, Cavignac and the council had to get creative.
“This change would be put into the cab permitting law,” he said. “There was no real mechanism other than to place it on the permit itself.”
If approved, the amendment will be made to the section that currently prohibits cab drivers from transporting prostitutes. If amended, the section would cover “solicitation for prostitution and other prohibited actions.”
Rusck, while maintaining his opposition to kids running away from home, voiced two concerns with the regulation.
“If we refuse to pick up kids on a certified call, that’s a violation of our contract,” Rusck said. “We can’t discriminate on who we pick up and where we take them.”
Rusck also said there is no way for his drivers to legally ask to see a child’s identification.
“How can we tell their age?” Rusck asked. “We can’t card them. We can’t refuse to ride them whether they have an ID or if they don’t have an ID.”
Rusck also was concerned the ordinance would prevent children from using a taxi to flee a dangerous situation. Rusck said he can remember a child calling one of his cabs when his or her parents were intoxicated. The child rode to his or her grandparent’s house. The grandmother then paid the cab fare.
“It’s so dangerous when people are trying to get away,” he said.
However, Rusck said he will follow any laws passed that apply to all modes of public transportation. But he also said, if someone puts in a legitimate call but can’t catch a ride because of the ordinance, he will not hesitate to place responsibility on the council.
“They can pass all the ordinances they want,” he said. “I’ll just give them the city councilman’s number for that district and let them call at 2 a.m.”
Rusck said his main concern is doing what’s right.
“And after 48 years [in the taxi business], I know how to do that,” he said.