POLICE will pass on their own skills and techniques to help cabbies avoid trouble, following several attacks in Rotherham this year.
The link-up has been welcomed by drivers in the Rotherham Private Hire Drivers Association, set up two years ago to help protect its often vulnerable and isolated workforce.
Chairman Haroon Rashid said: “Learning about body language is an excellent idea, something I’ve been pushing for over a couple of years now, and I’m really glad that it’s being worked on.
“I’ve been through this kind of training before and there are tell-tale signs. You can pick up some from experience on the job, but it’s much better having this training.”
He added: “We are liaising with a firm which does CCTV and protective shields for cars, and we are also looking to join up with the police to have stickers produced to go in the cars, telling people that we do work in partnership.
“They will be similar to those you see in hospitals’ A&E departments, which tell people that violence or verbal abuse on staff will not be tolerated.”
Andrew Lewis (21), of Lapwater Road in Greasbrough, was jailed for three years after admitting robbing taxi driver Mohammed Yaqub (58).
Accomplice Craig Smith (27) was given a community order for assisting an offender during the same incident in March.
“I think the police have done a fantastic job,” said Mr Rashid.
“All the credit goes to them, both in arresting these people and keeping myself and the drivers involved informed about what was happening. “It’s good to see this working relationship between ourselves and the police.
“The association was formed to improve the working conditions of taxi drivers, especially in the area of safety and to look to eliminate any prejudices currently held about taxi drivers. “We make every effort to work with all relevant bodies to improve the standard of service to the public.”
South Yorkshire Police licensing officer Pc Dave Thompson said the force was looking forward to organising the seminars.
He added: “We had a meeting with interested parties because there has been another couple of incidents involving drivers more recently.
“We are in the process of organising some open seminars, and help the drivers be more able to read body language and realise possible risks and dangers more easily from people’s demeanour or behaviour.
“It’s similar techniques to those used by the police. But we would certainly not go as far as teaching self-defence. “Our advice would always be to avoid physical conflict, hand over money and then report the incident to us afterwards.”
Pc Thompson said the sentences handed to Lewis and Smith showed that the safety of drivers—and everyone in Rotherham—was the top priority.
He added: “Drivers are clearly a vulnerable workforce but we hope this sends a strong signal.”