By Ed Brock
Standing in the cold with some of her family, Sylvia Gonzalez said she was nonetheless glad that Clayton County police had stopped the cab in which they had been riding.
“I'm glad that they're out here for my security,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez and her family had inadvertently caught the wrong cab to take them to the music store and found themselves in the middle of the Clayton County Police Department's “Operation Safe Fares.”
The purpose of the operation is to crack down on taxi cabs that are operating without the proper permit required by a relatively new county ordinance.
“We've gotten several complaints,” said Clayton County Police Lt. Jeff Eidson, one of the officers participating in the operation.
Pulling up to the scene where Gonzalez's cab was stopped Eidson is quick to point out one violation before even getting out of his patrol car. The taxi has no light on top to indicate when it's out of service.
Another officer questions the driver.
“Where's all your permits?” the officer asks. “In Clayton County you have to have a permit to drive a cab.”
The driver, Juan Guiterrez, while watching the officers examine his vehicle explains the lack of a sign.
“This company was assured by two other companies that you don't need a light,” he said, adding that this was because they charge under $2 a mile.
Eidson said that is not the case.
The officers in the operation were checking the vehicle's logs and making sure the permit was properly displayed in the cab as required by the ordinance.
By the end of the day they had issued one citation for violation of the ordinance, two violations for unsafe taxis, four for no display of roof light, two for not having a permit to operate a taxi, one for operating without a business license and one for passing a stopped school bus. Among the companies cited were Victor's Taxi, Vergel's Taxi, Vino's Taxi and Mio Taxi.
As a side benefit the officers also arrested a man who was wanted out of California. Though the state of California declined to extradite the man, Clayton County Assistant Police Chief Jeff Turner said he has been charged with making false statements regarding his identification card.
Turner said that Operation Safe Fare would be an ongoing operation.