Columbus cab driver become police lookouts

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Taxi drivers will be drafted as official lookouts for police as part of a program being adopted by a central Ohio cab company.

Yellow Cab of Columbus recently said it is adopting the national Taxis on Patrol initiative, creating a partnership among the cab company, Columbus police and the county sheriff's office.

"We travel 7 million miles annually," company president Jeff Kates said during the event announcing the program. "Our drivers can and do see quite a lot....If you see something, you say something."

As part of the program, specially trained Yellow Cab drivers will report suspicious activities to police. The Columbus Dispatch reports that the company is paying for cameras similar to dashboard cameras in police cruisers to be installed in each of the company's 130 vehicles in Columbus to help document what happens and to protect the drivers from crime.

Columbus police have helped develop a video and other training materials to show drivers what they need to do, including how to accurately describe a suspect. The materials also show what not to do -- including getting personally involved.

"It's an amazing opportunity to have this partnership," Columbus police Deputy Chief Richard Bash said.

Some version of Taxis on Patrol has existed since the 1970s, when a New York suburb first used cab drivers to report crimes. In late 2010, the Maryland-based taxi association decided to revitalize the program for nationwide use. Major cities in various states started forming local Taxis on Patrol last year.

Norman Scroggins, a Yellow Cab driver, already has completed the training. He just started with Taxis on Patrol but not long ago, he called police "the way any decent person would" after seeing a domestic-violence incident from his taxi. He said the program's training will allow him and others to be of even more assistance to police.

"I have a mother and a sister," he said. "I would want someone to help them."

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Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com