Saturday, November 28, 2015

UCG On Night Ops With The Tout Squad.

On Friday November 13th, Trevor Merralls and I were granted very rare full access to the Mets undercover Cab Enforcement Unit and were invited to join them for a night to observe what they do and how they do it.

We met at 9pm and were warmly welcomed at their Kings Cross base. The team is led by Inspector Tracy Allison, under her are 5 sergeants and 55 PCs. It seems a lot but bearing in mind that’s to cover 31 London Boroughs 24/7 it really is not. The two proactive teams (those on the streets) are split into two groups of 24.

As they are specialist officers and if numbers are diminished through sickness, injury or leave they cannot draft in untrained temporary staff, with the exception of decoys, so you can see they are understaffed. Staffing levels notwithstanding, we can tell you they do an excellent job, are totally dedicated and their professionalism is second to none.

At the briefing Tracy told us that they work on intelligence received from the Met, TFL and cab drivers who report touts etc.

The number one area for touting and sexual assaults is Shoreditch. With that in mind we got in an unmarked car with Tracy and her Sergeant ,Mike and headed toward Shoreditch High St.

Eventually we and the second car parked in Garden Row and waited.Two decoys were situated within 30 yards in Gt Eastern St. No tout would ever know that the young woman on the corner and man opposite were Police. They blend in perfectly.

Our in car teams were in constant contact with the decoys and each other; completely invisible to the touts. Tracy explained that there is a marked difference between those deemed illegally Plying for Hire and those blatantly Touting.

To clarify this, if a PHV is empty and sees a prospective fare with their hand up , if they stop and the prospective passenger asks to be taken to wherever, this is classed as P4H.

If a PHV sees a person who looks like they may be needing a ride home, stops and asks them if they need a cab, its Touting.

The reason the CEU target touts as oppose to those Plying for Hire is as follows:

• Illegal P4H, although a criminal offence, it is not what is known as a ‘Recordable Offence’, by which I mean the police cannot take a DNA sample when the suspect is arrested.
• Touting is Recordable and a DNA sample is always taken upon arrest
• DNA samples from touts have led to many convictions for crimes committed in the past, which is why the CEU will wait to arrest one.

In a perfect world they would have the manpower to nick both P4H chancers and Touts. But unfortunately, the world in which we work is far from perfect.

We saw a number of PHVs pull up next to the decoys and then drive away. But, after some 40 minutes we had a bite. 

A car stopped next to a decoy and engaged in conversation, on a hand signal our car blocked the the tout from the front and the second car blocked him from reversing. It happened so quickly he had hope to escape. The CEU have this blocking exercise perfected.

This character had no licence, no insurance and was suspected of taking and driving away. He was arrested and taken to a local custody suite and the car was seized and driven to a police pound.

Another unlicenced tout was arrested in Fairchild St and taken to a different custody suite to be charged.

At this point the Shoreditch area was seen to be ‘burnt’, Police jargon meaning that their presence there was known and it was time to move on.

Tracy and Mike decided that we would then drive to Camden, another toutshotspot.

On the way Tracy called her colleague who had taken the first tout to be charged and asked if anything was known about him.

It was, she immediately rang the officer who was impounding the vehicle. That was when I heard the most chilling words;
Search that car for a Rape Kit‘ !!
A rape kit consists of a rope, gloves, weapon etc.

It transpired he had serious previous, including the worst crime toward a woman. 
He was a dangerous predator and who knows what he had in mind that night.

I must reiterate that this person was unlicensed but there are many more like him on the streets.

We next parked in Camden and the decoys were deployed. After a while a very suspect PHV stopped. The driver got out and was about to approach our man but a marked police car with blue lights flashing, on a completely unrelated job, stopped within 20 yards of us and the prospective tout did nothing.

We then moved on to Camden High St and it didn’t take long before our decoys were touted, this time by a licenced PHV driver. He was arrested and taken away for questioning and charging.

As I said earlier each of these touts can have DNA samples taken which is of great help to the police.

That night was a real eye opener as to the scale of the problem; it is huge. 

The CEU do their level best to fight the problem but are outnumbered. They certainly shouldn't be blamed for any inadequacy, it’s not their fault. It’s a game of Cat and Mouse. 
On Friday it became clear there are many more mice than cats.
(We have not forgotten who ran the mouse breeding programme)

Angela Clarkson

UCG Secretary


Anonymous said...

Well it makes a change this site not slagging of the met or jumping in ambulances and moving them

Anonymous said...

"Plying for hire, a non recordable offence!"...

So why does plying for hire need defining if the police CLEARLY understand legally the difference between touting and plying for hire ?

Anonymous said...

The fact p4h is non recordable proves that it is not defined in law.

This is why the MET cannot arrest or act upon illegal ranks of phv outside venues, stations etc.


Anonymous said...

3 nicks with all those resources, seriously? And fobbed off about plying for hire as well. Please never forget that you represent thousands of drivers that know only too well what the real level of touting in London is. Lose sight of that, & you become the LTDA lite. You can do better than that.

simco said...

All our livelihood goes to Überk and minicabs that play for hire via APPS.
After "not a meter" court case I suspect that courts will define instant e-Hire as not P4H.
Lobying will help judges to make that decision in favour of $50 billion disruptive technology company.

colin said...

On one hand Tfl create the problem,on the other hand Police try to clean up Tfl's mess.

Anonymous said...

Clarke and Goodge v Stanford

Allen v Tonbridge

White v Cubitt

Gilbert v Mackay

Rose v Welbeck

All of the above cases and the judges rullings define quite clearly in the eyes of the law what plying for hire is.

The problem is... We have individuals that spend too much time listening and beliving the misinformation LTPH/TFL pump out.
And then start playing barrack room lawyer. You might want to aquaint yourself with some of these cases and the rulings of many high court judges instead of spewing out one liners about what you heard down the cafe !

To quote Alan Fleming and what he thinks of TFL/TPH...

"So as you will observe the brain dead at TFL/ T&PH do not know what they are doing, or do they? For hear we have a group of people who do not know the laws that they are charged with enforcing. The phrase, “Not Fit For Purpose” comes to mind"

are you listening LN ?

Come back in 56 days !

Editorial said...

Sorry, but I have no sympathy for this squad whatsoever.
The CEU's conviction rate is shocking.
16 drivers convicted of 49 offences in a six month period.
Although they have a much higher arrest rate, converting these arrests to convictions is very low

With a staff of approx 60 field operatives, it works out to one conviction per officer, every two years!
Let not forget, this squad is financed by TfL out of licence fees!
Value for money ?

This is scandalous

Jim Thomas, Editor.

Anonymous said...

I agree Simco. My point is:
This business of defining plying for hire is a TFL propaganda exercise created to totally obfuscate and confuse, and its working.

The agenda has always been to get rid of plying for hire which will be the final solution to bring about the end of the London taxi trade as we know it. The Law Commissions recommendations are a spanner to loosen a nut and all the wannabes fell for it and still do !

Anonymous said...

Lewis Nortons continued calls for P4H to be defined in Law has done much danamge to our trade as TfL, regardless of case law uses this as an excuse to do nothing about illegally plying for hire.
Lewis may have good intentions but doesn't have the experience for the office he holds, this is reflected by the amount of members they have shed ni the past 12 months.
But then the RMT LTDB have always been an embarrassment.
Despite paying the highest subs in the trade the drivers still have to folk out.
I gave up my support when asked by former Chair John Kennedy Jnr to put in a collection to pay for the hire of a room in Victoria where they were holding a branch meeting.

No funding for magazine, the only org not to have one.
Mind you seeing what they put on their website and in their news letter, probably best they don't have one.

Anonymous said...

Anon 610
Your so right mate.
Best thing that can happen to the RMT is for the members to see sense and at their AGM, elect complete new committee.
They need a complete change in direction.
At present they have become like the Vichi setup in France, refusing to upset TfL Oddy or Davis.
Where has the militency we see with the tube section gone
Where has their fight gone.
Think the fighters have all left the branch.

Anonymous said...

Any chance of this squad doing a honey trap (like they did recently with taxis).Stand kerbside waving an iphone and nicking the UBER driver who responds without being booked.