15 rapes in six weeks in robot taxis - Police warn teenage girls to stay away
With more than 15 rapes in the past six weeks, the police have now issued a formal warning to teenage girls, especially, to avoid commuting in illegal, unregulated taxis - robots - the vehicles the authorities say are linked to all the alleged crimes.
Enid Ross-Stewart, head of the Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse, told journalists on Thursday that at least eight of the cases have been recorded in the Corporate Area, and one person is in custody.
"I want to inform the nation - mothers, parents, just about everybody - to encourage their children, especially teenage daughters, not to take the illegal, unregulated taxis," Ross-Stewart urged.
"We're trying to put the pieces together to see how many taxis are involved," she added.
She said an adult has been among the victims.
Despite the reports of the robot taxi rapes, latest figures from the Jamaica Constabulary Force point to a reduction, nationally, in the number of rapes reported so far this year.
For the period January 1 to June 4, the police recorded 204 cases of rape, 29 per cent less than the 289 reported for the similar period last year.
The National Council of Taxi Associations (NCOTA) has joined the police in warning teenage girls to be careful in making their choices about which taxis to take.
"The actions of the persons who are allegedly committing the rape doesn't really represent like 80 or 90 per cent of the persons operating illegally. But they have to understand that once a cloud like that sets over, the spotlight is going to turn on them," president of NCOTA Deon Chance told The Gleaner.
"I know that the regular legal taxi operators operate under a particular code and we don't play certain types of music or DVD videos, and a lot of the young girls tend to gravitate to this type of activity," he said, noting that rape can never be condoned.
In March, the Transport Authority made it mandatory for all taxis to be colour coded.
Under the standard, hackney carriages must display a black and yellow checkered strip between the headlights and tail lights of the vehicle, while route taxis are mandated to display a black and white checkered strip.
All taxis must display a yellow taxi globe at the centre of the roof of the vehicles, 12 inches from the windscreen.
Chance says the police and the Transport Authority must also deepen their enforcement.