“Code red” in the Amsterdam taxi industry. According to a study released Tuesday, taxis in the capital have seen a bad image as the industry has “increased” crime. It mainly concerns minor abuses, but the researchers at bureau Beke identify in their report also “organized crime interference and subversive crime”.
Over the past three years, the police have recorded 20 “taxi-related incidents” per day – 22,339 incidents in total, according to the researchers. One in five taxi drivers (18 percent) was suspected of a crime. Although the majority of the cases involved traffic violations (66 percent) and suspected or unsuspected violent crimes (24 percent), taxi drivers also became involved in drug crime (6 percent) and the transport of weapons (1 percent). The taxi industry, the researchers write, is vulnerable and the risk of subversive crime is high. “The taxi industry sometimes proves to be a perfect cover for varying improved Albanian organizations posing with weapons and drugs. Sometimes the taxi driver is a spider in the web of a criminal network that arranges everything.”
According to the researcher, part of the problem is caused by an overstrained market. Since the arrival of platform companies such as Uber, Bolt and ViaVan, there are far too many taxis operating in Amsterdam, it has become more difficult to earn a living. “This increases the vulnerability and opportunity for malicious and illegal practices.”
In a day, almost 2,800 taxis drive around in Amsterdam. License plate registration cameras from the municipality dug more than 9,200 unique, blue license plates in eighteen days. It is mainly self-employed persons of sole proprietorships, who come from outside Amsterdam. All that supply drives prices down: this seems good for the consumer, but it is bad for the driver, who cannot get by because of the low prices. And because if Uber leaves the price to supply and demand, it could be much more expensive than usual.
Taxi Dwight Wiebers (48) can talk about the competition driver. On Tuesday afternoon, his taxi slowly crawls closer to the first place of the stand behind Amsterdam Central Station. He knows the stories about drivers who deal from the driver’s seat. “There are some, especially younger guys, who do crazy things. Most of the drivers here are a bit older like me and are generally just decent drivers.” According to Wiebers, it is mainly drivers who drive exclusively for the platform companies that cause nuisance.
Hedy Borreman, general manager at Taxi Centrale Amsterdam (TTO) comes to this conclusion, who are allowed to use the stands by the municipality. “If you read the research carefully, the conclusion is that many of the excesses are with drivers who are not affiliated with a TTO, but with drivers who drive in front of the platforms and at the back are fundamentals for companies in Amsterdam.”
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This is also where the risks of undermining lie, thinks Borreman: drivers who share their taxi passes with others, or allow others to drive around on one pass. “By leasing that number, you touch on the undermining that the report is about. Things are not going well there.”
In the taxi industry there is great dissatisfaction with outdated legislation and laws only the boarding market can do – the taxis such as Wieber’s that wait at stations, or are used on the street. And that the market is shifting: there are fewer first-time buyers and online buyers. “The municipality almost completely says the entry market”, FNV director Platformwerk Amrit Sewgobind. “If a driver does something wrong at a TTO, he will receive justification, both from the municipality and from the taxi company. But those rules do not apply to the order market, where the platform companies operate exclusively.”
The municipality of Amsterdam aims for one set of rules for all drivers, but according to Sewgobind, it is hindered by national legislation. “There has to be a level playing field. A distinction must be made between the step-up and the order market for horses maintained with European regulations.” Borreman: „The law – the Passenger Transport Act 2000, the name says it all – is more than twenty years old and in the meantime a lot has changed, to say the least. Something really needs to be done.”
A version of this article also in NRC in the morning of December 9, 2021