By Megan Mattice
What started as a normal Saturday morning at Central Taxi quickly turned sour for one of Chris Staigh’s cab drivers.
Staigh is the operations manager at the taxi cab company, and was working in his office when one of his drivers pressed a newly installed “panic button”.
“One of my drivers picked up a fair as normal and everything was fine. Then things went bad,” said Staigh.
Around 7 a.m., there was a request for a pick up in Quinte West. When the Central car pulled up, two males got into the cab and gave a destination.
Conversation started and everything was going normal, until one of the males pulled out a knife and demanded a drive to Toronto.
Doing what he was trained to, the cab driver pushed the panic button located to the left of the steering wheel. This action notified the dispatcher, and all other cars, that the driver was in distress.
“The panic button is new to the fleet. Why we installed the button is because everyone is entitled to a safe work environment. When you’re dealing with the public as often as cab drivers do, you never really know what you’re going to get in your car,” said Staigh.
Once the panic button is pressed and the dispatcher is notified, the dispatcher is then able to notify the proper authorities to respond accordingly.
The panic buttons, along with updated GPS and MTDs, were installed in early 2012, just two years after the new owners of Central took over.
“The reason we upgraded was because of driver’s safety. There were no panic buttons before, and Central Taxi wants to provide the feeling of comfort for both drivers and customers,” said Staigh.
“If the driver is happy and safe, that transcends into how our customers feel. A happy customer is something we pride ourselves on.”
After seeing the cab driver push the button, the two hijacking males fled from the car and took off on foot.
“Because of the technology installed, we were able to pinpoint where the car was located so that the police and a canine unit could find the suspects,” said Staigh.
Two hours after the search unit set out on foot, they were able to make two arrests. One older man and one youth, both from Trenton, were charged with forcible confinement, kidnapping, assault with a weapon, weapons dangerous and transportation fraud.
The driver, who has chosen to remain nameless, was unharmed and very grateful that the decision was made to install the buttons.
“He wrote a letter to the company, explaining the incident and thanking us for taking proper care of our drivers,” said Staigh.
The driver had only started his shift the morning of the knife threat, but, after all the questioning was over, he decided to shake it off and get back to work.
“You’re either going to be a victim and lose a day, or you can realize there are more customers and it’s not likely to happen again, ” said Staigh.