Retreat Of The Gypsies At Last Enforcement Of Taxi Regulations

Posted: January 27, 1991

A funny thing happens when Philadelphia Police Lt. Thomas Helker's taxi- inspection officers start checking for illegal cabs outside 30th Street Station: The queue of cabs suddenly comes to life, moving forward as gypsy cabs dart out of line and head for the hills. "They know we're out there now," says Lt. Helker, whose unit was formed recently to enforce new regulations designed to improve the city's taxi service.

No wonder hacks operating illegal cabs are getting jittery these days. Under the new regulations, the Police Department has the power to arrest drivers and impound their cabs if they don't display one of the state Public Utility Commission's medallions. The medallions cost $1,225, and the taxis have to pass muster for such things as road-worthiness and accurate metering.

The crackdown on gypsies began in December, and police haven't been afraid to use their new powers. By the end of last week, they had impounded 15 cabs. The impounded vehicles won't be released until their owners go to court, settle any fines and purchase a PUC medallion.

These enforcement efforts are good news, but even better news is the fact that 860 cab operators have purchased medallions and met the new standards.

According to the PUC, more than 500 taxis still await inspection. That means that if they're on the road they're operating illegally. All we can say is, they'd better keep a lookout in the rear-view mirror. One of Lt. Helker's men may be gaining on them.

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