10 Feb 2010

Safety measures in taxis to be made compulsory

10:20 pm on 10 February 2010

New safety measures in taxis could be compulsory by the end of March, following the killing of two drivers in the past 14 months.

Taxi fares are set to increase as the costs of the changes will be passed onto customers.

Hiren Mohini, 39, was stabbed by a passenger in what police describe as a frenzied attack about 1.30am in the Auckland suburb of Mt Eden on 31 January after picking up a fare from the central business district.

The Taxi Federation has been calling for mandatory installation of security cameras in taxis since the killing of another driver, 39-year-old Abdulrahman Ikatiari in Christchurch in December 2008.

Transport Minister Steven Joyce says safety concerns in the industry have reached a point where he has no choice but to consider mandatory measures.

However, he has yet to decide whether they will be safety screens, security cameras, duress alarms, or a combination of these.

Mr Joyce says the costs of any measures will be borne by the industry. He has asked for a report from the Transport Agency within four weeks, after which he will make a final decision.

The Taxi Federation is pleased safety measures in cabs may soon be made compulsory but estimates it will add about 30 cents to a fare.

A family friend of Mr Mohini, Satish Chopra, is pleased at the move but believes a safety screen is more effective in stopping an attack than a security camera.

Billboard used in Mohini case

Police are to unveil a large inner-city billboard appealing for information as they continue the hunt for the killer of Mr Mohini.

The six-metre by three-metre billboard will be put in Fort Street by Thursday morning and feature images of a blue carry bag found in the area Mr Mohini died and a person of interest.

Police say the billboard's location fits in with their appeal to Asian communities for information. Staff will also be distributing fliers at the Chinese New Year celebrations on Saturday.

Police are still trying to identify a man seen in security camera footage shortly before Mr Mohini picked up his last fare.

Images were issued on Tuesday of a hat with a distinctive logo that the killer may have had with him which was found along with a bloody blue bag.

Detective Senior Sergeant Hywel Jones says officers are making little breakthroughs every day and there is no let-up in the investigation.

Fifty officers are now working on the case.