By Kevin Menz, The StarPhoenix
SASKATOON (Canada): Driving a cab is a scary job, says Baljit Singh.
Singh was punched in the face early Thursday morning by a man who refused to leave his taxi.
The Saskatoon Radio Cabs driver, sporting a black left eye, said city police took nearly an hour to respond to his 911 call and the delay hasn’t helped the already-lacking sense of security he feels while driving a taxi.
“It was always scary. Now it’s even more scary,” Singh said of driving a cab.
Singh said two men refused to leave his cab Thursday after he drove them from Outlaws Country Rock Bar to the Travelodge Hotel around 2: 45 a.m. He didn’t know why they refused to leave the vehicle.
He told them they didn’t have to pay the fare, so long as they let him get back to work, he said.
Singh said as he pleaded with them to “Let me go free,” the man in the front passenger seat punched him and ran into the hotel.
The second man left money for the fare on the back seat before also fleeing into the hotel.
Singh said he called the police as a bystander confronted the man who had punched him, and the bystander and the man fought inside the hotel lobby before the bystander was able to subdue the man. He said the second man from his cab was not present during the fight.
The bystander was only able to hold the man for 10 to 15 minutes, he said.
Singh said the man was able to escape because police took nearly an hour to respond to his call. He feels 911 calls from cab drivers are not given the same priority as other calls to police.
Saskatoon Police spokesperson Alyson Edwards confirmed that police received Singh’s call at 3 a.m. but did not arrive at the scene until 4 a.m.
According to a record of the call, police were only told that Singh had been punched and that the man who punched him had run into the hotel – they were not told a bystander was holding the man who had punched Singh, she said.
Edwards said 911 calls are prioritized on their emergency status. She said because the suspect did not appear to be an immediate threat to Singh at the time and because Singh was not in need of immediate medical attention, the call may have fallen behind others.
“Unfortunately in this case it did take a while to get to the scene, but I’m not sure what else was going on in the city at the same time,” she said.
Edwards did not have access to the full police report when she talked with the StarPhoenix on Friday afternoon. She said because Singh’s call was not labelled as a high-priority call, the report from the officer at the scene had yet to be typed into the station’s records.
Edwards said district inspectors recently met with owners and staff of cab companies in the city to help drivers improve their personal safety and avoid violent situations. Management at both Radio Cabs and United Group, another Saskatoon taxi company, said they are pleased with their relationship with city police.
Yadwinder Dhillon, one of Singh’s co-workers at Radio Cabs, said he has previously worked as a cab driver in Vancouver and he feels less safe driving in Saskatoon.
Dhillon said he gets at least one customer a night who makes him feel threatened.
Singh said he hopes to set up a meeting with the police and the mayor’s office to discuss his safety concerns.
“I would welcome him to contact us if he is upset about the response,” Edwards said.