Taxi company offers police data
Following an attempted abduction of a female University student early Sunday morning, the Yellow Cab and Anytime Taxi companies supplied the police with information about potential suspects and witnesses to support the ongoing investigation.
The student was trying to hail a cab and got into a car. Instead of the driver bringing her to her dorm on Alderman Road, the driver drove to near Kellogg Dorm and tried to assault the student before she escaped, according to a University-wide email from University Chief of Police Michael Gibson.
Mark Brown, who owns both Yellow Cab and Anytime Taxi, said global positioning systems, recorded calls and tablet computers inside taxis were all used to assure none of his drivers had gone from the area of 513 Rugby Road, where the abduction took place, to Kellogg Dorm. Brown said this meant it was unlikely one of his drivers was involved.
“They set up a geo-fence around that pick-up [location and] then we set up a geo-fence around the Kellogg Dorm … to see if any cars were around that location around that same time,” Brown said, referring to a virtual fence used to track taxi flows in a certain area. “We didn’t have any cars that are inside both [at the time of the incident.]”
Brown said all calls to his companies are recorded, so he was also able to provide police with the names and numbers of potential witnesses who had requested a taxi in the 513 Rugby Road area that evening.
University Police Lieut. Melissa Fielding said in an email Yellow Cab had been cooperative in the investigation.
“Personally speaking, I’m impressed that Yellow Cab and Anytime utilize this technology,” Fielding said. “It’s comforting to know that the added security exists.”
Law Prof. Darryl Brown said students should not have any expectation of privacy when calling a taxicab company, even if intoxicated, so the company could legally turn over records to the police department.
“I strongly suspect that’s legal, there’s not a problem with the cab company disclosing that,” Darryl Brown said. “It’s pretty likely that a court would say, ‘you don’t have an expectation of privacy when you give your phone number to a stranger.’”
Darryl Brown said the laws may be different if the police were attempting to obtain records from the taxi company without the company’s consent, which was not the case here.
Mark Brown said the phone recordings and GPS location software are useful when students lose their cellphone or other valuables in a taxi and do not know exactly who their driver was. The company can track down in which taxi the valuables were lost and return them to the owner.