Cab Companies Are Funding LAPD’s Crackdown on Ridesharing And It Needs to Stop

By December 15, 2016Criminal Justice

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) has recently become the target of negative backlash, after its decade-long initiative to bust unlicensed cab drivers has been pushed into the spotlight. Thankfully, due to the current popularity of ridesharing services, the residents of Los Angeles are asking the LAPD to put an end to this outdated program.

Before Uber and Lyft arrived on the scene, dissatisfied consumers had few options when it came to hailing a cab. For those living in one of Los Angeles’ many diverse neighborhoods, where English may not be the primary language spoken, traditional cabs were often inconvenient. In addition to having to go through a dispatcher in order to hire and communicate with your driver, there is often a language barrier between the passenger and the driver which can make finding a final destination rather complicated.

However, through this frustration came the rise of black market “bandit” taxis. Instead of relying on traditional taxi companies, these underground cab drivers began giving their mobile number to community members and launching their own transportation services. In addition to the added convenience of being able to contact your driver directly on their mobile device, these entrepreneurial drivers worked flexible hours and catered to communities where language barriers were not an issue.

Rather than improve their services in order to compete with this burgeoning underground taxi market, the LA cab companies pressured local law enforcement to crack down on “bandit” drivers. In 2006, a deal was struck and each individually licensed cab was obligated to pay $30 a month in order to fund the LAPD’s campaign against bandit cabs. However, the cab companies weren’t going to fund the initiative on their own. Instead, a 20-cent hike in cab fare was implemented across the board, effectively holding the consumer and the taxpayer responsible for the cab companies’ failure to innovate.

In the decade since its implementation, the “Bandit Taxicab Enforcement Program” has been responsible for over 8,500 arrests and 6,000 impounded vehicles. To put it bluntly, this program has allowed the cab industry to use a publicly funded police force and additional taxpayer dollars to squash out their competition.

However, now that ridesharing companies, like Lyft and Uber, have normalized the use of unlicensed taxi services, and become a huge threat to the traditional cab companies, the LAPD has shifted its focus from these so-called “bandit” drivers, and has gone after rideshare drivers instead.

This past year alone, over 240 rideshare drivers have been arrested in the Los Angeles area. Undercover officers have made a habit out of posing like civilians in need of a ride in order to catch drivers in the act. Once a car with an Uber or Lyft sticker in the window is spotted, the LAPD flag down the car and offer the driver cash in exchange for a ride. If the driver accepts the cash, they are not simply given a warning or a citation, they are arrested on the spot.

Currently, the city limits the number of “legal” operating cabs to 2,300. However, given the fact that there is suspected to be over 3,000 bandit cabs and rideshare vehicles in service, it is clear that the cab companies have not met the demands of their consumers. In the last several years, as ridesharing has risen in popularity, the number of taxicab rides have dropped by 44 percent in Los Angeles.

Yet, instead of adjusting their business model and attempting to compete with these 21st century ridesharing apps, the taxicab industry has used law enforcement officers as their personal “goons,” stomping out the competition at the expense of the taxpayer.

While Los Angels consumers have clearly shown their preference for ridesharing apps over taxicabs, the LAPD plans to continue these sting operations and has recently allocated $850,000 to continuing the fight against bandit cabs in the new year.

Author Brittany Hunter

Brittany Hunter is a Staff Contributor at Generation Opportunity.

More posts by Brittany Hunter
  • Truckngirl

    I know, yeah! Fuck the law!
    Ever lose anything in a cab/rideshare? If it’s a bandit, you’ll never get it back. Driver assaults you? Too bad! No recourse! I’m not against Uber or any other controlled dispatch, but the third world style of bandit cabs (hey pretty lady, you could ride for free if you just…) is dangerous for the riding public. Why do you think many bandit cabs are outside of the system? Could it be the background checks and the exclusion of certain convictions?
    Cartels? Hardly! Many of the owners of independent cabs are immigrants themselves, having invested in an entry-level business. What about them?
    You have a problem with the law, then go about changing it instead of demonizing the legitimate players and those that enforce the law as part of their job description.

  • apache501

    Such a stupid article. For years, Uber and Lyft have been violating that cab companies have been subject to. Sure, it’s BS but it’s what the cab companies had to do in order to operate.

    Now that the cab companies are seen as retaliating, Uber and Lyft whine about how unfair it all is. Lol. If they can’t operate under the criteria, they shouldn’t be allowed to operate.

  • Josh Kurpies

    1) Cities determine how many cab licenses to issue based on their assessment of need, not the cab companies.

    2) 2,300 taxis x $30 per month x 12 months = $828,000

    Considering the $30 per taxi was changed to $0.20 fare increase per ride, I would say $828,000 estimate is fairly close to $850,000 budget allocation for the enforcement (so no taxpayer dollars being used)

    3) This violation is similar to that of a business licensing issue and would normally be handled through a city’s non-sworn code enforcement personnel, which is funded through business license fees. This sounds to me the City simply asked the LAPD to enforce this city-imposed enforcement and is allocating the dedicated funds collected from taxi passengers to LAPD to enforce (similar to outsourcing, but still within the public agency. This does not seem outside of the ordinary to me.

    • Oscar_DeGrouch

      1) Cities (states, counties, countries) cannot properly assess the needs of the private sector. Only market forces can do that. If no one needed a ride, no one would be offering a ride. Hard to believe, I know.
      2) In other words, it costs taxpayers (yes, they are customers, too) $850,000 to incarcerate and fine people for an otherwise victimless crime. Let’s build more prisons for Uber drivers!!
      3) Your bar for fascism is appallingly low.

      • Josh Kurpies

        1) They may not do it well, but they do it all the time. They choose the number of law enforcement officers on the street, the number of casinos allowed to operate, the number of bars/restaurants, the number of gas stations,and in this case, the number of taxi cabs to license.
        2) I am a tax payer, but I do not utilize the service of taxis, therefore I am not a customer and not contributing to the $850,000. The situation may not be the same for you.
        3) Our country just elected Donald Trump to the presidency, I don’t even know anymore what today’s “acceptable” bar level is for fascism.