A Hartlepool taxi driver has highlighted the dangers of what he says is a growing problem of unlicensed taxis operating in the town.
Cabbie Neil Handisides says he has seen a rise in the amount of private vehicles taking cash from passengers, especially late night revellers in Hartlepool town centre on weekends.
The hackney carriage driver is warning of the dangers to passengers and has called on the police to do more to tackle reports.
Cleveland Police and licensing chiefs at Hartlepool Borough Council are warning the public not to use unlicensed cabs for their own safety.
Mr Handisides, a self-employed taxi driver for almost 20 years, said: “It’s a massive problem in Hartlepool. Some people are bragging they are earning £200 to £300 a weekend.
“It is not just one or two cars it is 10 or 20. I’m getting a lot of information off other taxi drivers as well.
“People don’t realise once they get in that car and they are going to make a payment it invalidates that person’s insurance because they are not insured for public or private hire.”
He added: “It is a long drawn out process to get a taxi badge. You have to be a fit and proper person.
“Someone is going to get sexually assaulted or assaulted by one of these fake taxi drivers.
“The police could show a presence but they don’t.”
A council spokesman said: “The issue of unlicensed taxis concerns us as people using such vehicles are potentially putting themselves at risk.
“Only licensed vehicles have the correct insurance and drivers are carefully vetted before being granted a licence.”
They said it is best to pre-book through established companies, and licensed taxis are yellow with signs on their doors and plates and drivers have badges.
Chief Inspector Nigel Burnell said: “We are always grateful for information from the public and with our colleagues in the Community Safety Team we’ll work together on concerns raised.
“If you see an unlicensed taxi do report it to the council and joint action will be taken.
“The council regulates private hire vehicles and from a safety point of view we’d advise anyone against using an unlicensed taxi – you simply don’t know who you’re travelling with.”
Anyone with information about unlicensed taxis is urged to call the council on (01429) 523354 or email firstname.lastname@example.org