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.