Source: The Herald -Sun, 7 April, 2001, p.17
LATE-night attacks on Melbourne taxi drivers are becoming more frequent and more violent. New figures from the Victorian Taxi Directorate reveal 54 drivers were assaulted in the six months to January. This compares with 36 incidents for the previous 12 months. And the number of armed robberies has in- creased to 30 in the half year, 10 more than the previous year. The growing tide of violence is believed to be one of the key factors behind a shortage of taxi drivers in Melbourne. The Victorian Taxi Association believes the city is about 2000 drivers short. The violence is also deterring drivers from picking up passengers from nightclub venues. The association's chief executive, Neil Sach, said offensive behaviour of passengers meant many drivers stayed away from club zones. "Up to 12 o'clock, they get passengers who are pretty good. After that they get the ragers," he said. "There are spots that drivers avoid." He said drivers feared attacks, vomiting in the car, lewd behaviour and people fleeing without paying. Fare evasion, or "runners" as they are known in the industry, were a growing problem, Mr Sach said. "Passengers may not have any money. So many people expect the driver to take them home and they expect them to do it for nothing," he said. "There's a lot of verbal abuse too, especially towards drivers who are new immigrants. "A lot of passengers are great but the bad ones are bad." Mr Sach said low unemployment also was causing the driver shortage. "We just don't have the drivers to man the cars," Mr Sach said. He said the shortage meant many taxis were not operating on Friday and Saturday nights. Nightclub Owners Association president Peter Iwaniuk said the shortage of late-night taxis was a major problem. "We've been lobbying the State Government to get better transport," Mr Iwaniuk said. "Melbourne's a 24- hour city now, there's always something happening around the casino." He said the lack of late- night transport was a world-wide problem. "You go out into the city for a night out with your wife and friends and you can't get home. You have to walk," he said. - IAN ROYALL
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