Cabbies get their own crime watch

A high-tech system that aims to cut the soaring level of crime against taxi drivers was launched in the UK this week.

Cabwatch uses satellite tracking and digital photographs to direct police to the aid of cabbies under attack and provide high-quality video evidence for prosecution of offenders.

This joint venture between UK telematics specialist Eagle Eye and security giant Chubb is the first to combine Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite technology with digital imaging, according to the two companies.

Chubb, which will market Cabwatch around the world, eventually plans to offer it to other industries such as public transport operators and hauliers.

The system allows drivers to press a panic button that alerts a central control room and automatically activates a GPS link, enabling police to track the vehicle’s exact position.

A digital camera and audio link also begins to download data to the control room, giving an instant update on the driver’s situation and providing recorded evidence of the crime.

Taxi drivers are especially vulnerable to attack because they work alone, often at night, and are known to carry cash. The growing number of incidents involving cabbies, including several murders, has led the Home Office to identify them as a group in need of extra security measures.

A number of systems such as in-vehicle CCTV and mobile phone links have been developed to deter offenders and help police investigate afterwards.But Ralph Stross, Eagle Eye’s chief executive, claimed Cabwatch is the first to bundle the type of advanced tracking technology used in armoured security vans into a package suitable for passenger vehicles.

Stross said Chubb agreed to take Eagle Eye’s system to the marketplace following a pilot scheme involving cabbies in Bolton, Greater Manchester.

‘Taxi drivers have been keen on this type of system for some time, but the problem has been getting the telematics technology reliable enough to use in an emergency situation,’ said Stross. ‘If you have a driver relying on a system in what can be a life-or- death situation, you have to be sure it works.’

He said the deal with Chubb was the most significant to date for Cheshire-based Eagle Eye, which has been developing telematics systems for five years.

Cabwatch units will be sold to local authorities, which will then rent the system out to individual drivers for about £12 a week.

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