The burglar alarm went off at 4:30 in the morning, rousing Cam Koss from sleep.
The Yukon government employee ran downstairs and saw a youth in dark clothes tearing down his Porter Creek driveway.
So he jumped in his car, called 911 and tried to follow the suspect.
That’s when he noticed the taxi slowly circling his block.
“I thought, what is a taxi doing circling the block at 4:30 a.m.?” said Koss.
It didn’t take him long to figure it out.
Koss, a former citizen on patrol, was following the cab with his lights out, when he saw it stop and pick up four youth.
One of them looked just like the kid he saw take off down his driveway.
Koss pulled in front of the cab and waited for the cops.
When police arrived they questioned the driver and youth.
The cabbie said he’d just passed a kid on a skateboard who might have been the burglar.
“But I’d been following him with the lights out and we hadn’t passed anyone,” said Koss.
With little evidence, the RCMP had no choice but to let the kids go.
It wasn’t until they got back to Koss’ place that they ran into a witness who’d seem another youth run out of his garage after Koss had driven away.
This youth was easy to identify and had been one of the kids in the taxi.
The police tracked the cabbie down, but the driver said he didn’t remember where he’d dropped the youth off, less than an hour ago.
“The cabbie was not co-operative,” said Koss.
The experience made Koss question the city’s taxi regulations.
Whitehorse has just rewritten its outdated taxi bylaw. Koss fears there are some serious gaps.
“At the very minimum, taxis should have a dispatch,” he said.
The new draft bylaw doesn’t require Yukon taxi companies to have a separate dispatcher and base station, which means a driver, operating a one-car business, can run the whole operation using a cellphone.
“All he has to do is pay $15 and slap a decal on the side of his car,” said Koss.
What if the kids the driver picked up after the burglary had slit the driver’s throat? he asked.
“Or what if the driver had picked up a couple of young girls and done awful things to them?
“No one would know.”
Not having a third party acting as dispatch means only the driver and the passenger know who’s in the car and where it’s going.
There is no oversight.
However, the city has made it more difficult for serious offenders to drive cab.
Now, if a driver has been convicted of serious offences, including trafficking, sexual assault, kidnapping or robbery, they won’t get a taxi licence.
Before, if they’d been convicted of any of these crimes, they had to wait a minimum of five years before applying for a taxi licence.
But stricter rules surrounding criminal code convictions won’t ensure cab safety, said Koss.
It doesn’t help drivers who pick up criminals – something which might not be that uncommon, given Koss’ recent experience.
And it doesn’t ensure passenger safety either.
Koss likes the idea of putting cameras in cabs, something many jurisdictions, including Toronto, require.
“You have to look out for people who aren’t willing to look out for themselves,” he said.
“But it all ends up coming down to the almighty dollar.”
The city expects to have its new taxi bylaw come into force sometime this fall.
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