15 taxi-drivers killed to date...

As providers of an essential service to the public, T&T taxi-drivers are now finding themselves an endangered group.

With 15 taxi-drivers murdered for the year so far, it would seem that this job is one of the most dangerous in T&T.

So much so that legitimate taxi drivers (drivers of H-registration number plates), realising they are clear targets of bandits and robbers, are taking measures to safeguard themselves from danger, and death.

Several tax-drivers told the Sunday Express that they have stopped taking private jobs to transport people and they try to ensure that their night-time passengers are not bandits.

"The money will be nice and tempting, but life's worth more than that now. I stop taking endless private jobs from people who I do not know because of this same thing.

"When I park on the taxi stand, it have people who come saying they want to hire me to carry them all over, but I tell them no," a taxi-driver who wanted to be identified only as Leroy, said.

Leroy has been a taxi-driver for the past five years and operates along the Port of Spain to Chaguanas route.

Following the September 4 murder of fellow taxi-driver Margaret Constantine, Leroy, along with other drivers, decided to "become thy brother's keeper".

"If we see a passenger looking shady we give each other a look or signal," Leroy said. And there is no discriminating between men and women.

"Criminals come in all forms and fashion and we need to be careful out there," said Leroy.

With legal taxi-drivers cutting back on hours spent on the road, especially at nighttime, PH (private hire) drivers are taking up the slack. But they too, are targets of the criminal elements, maybe more so.

One PH driver who did not want to be identified and who plies the Port of Spain to Morvant route said:

"Because of the crime situation, real (taxi) drivers do not want to go into certain areas in Morvant and other places because they may get robbed or even shot.

"It is we (PH) drivers who does take the risk when we going into areas. And after a certain time, taxis refuse to go into areas and it have a large number of people who are left stranded."

But said one PH driver on the San Fernando to Port of Spain route, "I will admit to you that there are not some genuine PH drivers out there."

He claimed that some PH drivers transport their criminal friends, and that when a deal goes sour, the driver can be killed, noting that even some PH drivers have taken a stance about the areas where they will work.

"After a certain hour, I refuse to stop on the Beetham or in the vicinity of Sea Lots," said one PH driver who plies the Port of Spain to San Juan route.

Operators of taxi services are also taking steps to safeguard their employees, most notably by cutting down on night time work.

"We have cut down on a lot of our night work, we only go for our special customers whom we are accustomed with," said Peter Bacchus, owner of Bacchus Taxi and Car Rental Services.

The company will also not go in certain areas at nighttime-Carenage, Morvant, Laventille and George Street among others, said Bacchus who noted that in his 60 years in this business, only one of his employees was ever robbed in a hold-up.

Bacchus also said that it was also possible to detect whether something was not right by interacting with a prospective client over the telephone.

14 victims

Oct 15 - Cecil Washington Junior alias "Balo", 31, PH driver, shot dead at Coconut Drive, Morvant.

Oct 2 - Ramphal Khandan, 48, taxi-driver of Bank Village, Carapichaima. Reported missing by his relatives on Sept 28, his body was found off Rajkumar Trace, Freeport.

Sept 19 - Wesley Lester Cummings, 27, taxi-driver, of Humming Bird Avenue, La Romaine. Found bound and gagged and shot dead at the M2 Ring Road near Gandhi Village, Debe.

Sept 9 - Hassan Mohammed, a landscaper/ph taxi-driver, of La Horquette Road, Point Cumana, Carenage.

His body found partially burnt on Serraneau Road, Belmont. Police say they responded to gunshots and found the body.

Sept 7 - Seeram Hanuman, 37, a taxi-driver, of Nolan Street Extension, Felicity, Chaguanas. Was reported missing by relatives. His body was found on Connection Road, Freeport, with both his hands and feet bound with cord.

Sept 4 - Margaret Constantine, 53, a taxi-driver, of Church Street, Union Road, Marabella. Was reported missing by relatives on Sept 1, after dropping off a passenger in Chaguanas. Constantine was found bound and gagged in the forest off Charuma Branch Road, Tabaquite.

Aug 21 - Hafeez Maharaj, 33, a PH driver/High Court librarian, of Biljah Road Ext, Charlieville. Robbed, kidnapped and stabbed to death. His body was then dumped near the Valencia River.

Aug 4 - Ian Marcelle, 21, taxi-driver, of Canaan, Tobago. His mutilated body bore chop wounds in a garden at Blenheim, Tobago. He was reported missing on July 31.

June 21 - Nicholas Cedeno, alias "Mantos", taxi-driver. Shot dead while plying his car in St John's Road, St Augustine.

June 15 - Clyde Greer, 51, taxi-driver, of First Drive, Simeon Road, Petit Valley. Shot dead while standing outside his car in Morvant.

June 3 - Manram Singh, alias "Pumpkin", 49, taxi-driver, of Foster Road, Sangre Grande. His body found with gunshot wound at Demerara Road, Arima.

April 11 - Qunicy Gomez, 24, taxi-driver, of Sangre Grande. Was plying his Toyota Corolla car along Tiara Boulevard, Diego Martin, when he and a passenger had an argument. The passenger pulled out a gun and shot him several times.

March 15 - Lester Sobrian, 37, a truck driver and PH driver, of Dumfries Road, La Romaine. His body was found in Fyzabad near an oil well at Sewlal Trace. His throat was slit and police belie he was killed elsewhere and his body dumped.

Feb 9 - Marvin Nero, a PH driver of First Hamlet Drive, St Barb's, Laventille. Found with gunshot wounds slumped behind a steering wheel of a car in Green Acres Extension, Morvant.