The University Police Department has reported that, on Sept. 11, a female student got into an unmarked vehicle that she believed was a taxi. She said she was held against her will, assaulted and dropped off on Rebel Drive.
Following this incident, the University of Mississippi, city of Oxford and local business leaders are taking steps to better ensure student safety.
Sue La Crosse opened Angel Taxi with safety and her two Rebel daughters in mind. In a phone interview, La Crosse said she has an incredibly high standard for her drivers. Each drive through a rigorous background check, and most are alumni, mothers and fathers.
Although it may cause the drivers to get busier, La Crosse prefers to hire fewer drivers that she knows are safe and trustworthy rather than hire anyone remotely questionable.
According to Chapter 118-26 of Oxford’s city ordinances, taxi cabs are required to have safety cameras installed. In addition, taxi cabs must be marked on both sides of the vehicle, either magnetically or permanently, with three-inch lettering visible from at last 75 feet away.
The company’s phone number and license number must also be visible on the left and right side of the vehicle. Taxis are subject to random inspection for cleanliness and safety.
Drivers taxi permits and licenses must be visible to rear passengers, as well as a clear outline of their prices and safety guidelines. Taxi drivers are also required to log each passenger, the distance they traveled and their destination.
La Crosse said her two main concerns for student safety are traveling in groups and making sure the cabs they choose are marked.
Many cab companies in town offer reduced rates for students traveling in groups. A single person can ride for $10 a trip, and groups of three or more are offered rides at $5 a head to encourage groups sticking together.
La Crosse said drivers are taught that words and phrases like ‘Emergency,’ ‘Come get me right now,’ ‘I’m unsafe,’ or callers crying or whispering are situations where drivers should drop everything and pick them up immediately regardless of who is in the car and where they might be headed.
Uber is now in Oxford. It is important to note that Uber has no regulations for drivers about marking vehicles when in use.
According to the Uber website, they leave it up to the rider to identify if they are in an Uber vehicle or not. The website instructs riders to communicate with their driver, look for an Uber iPhone on the dashboard with a ‘drivers’ version of the App pulled up, and to identify their driver via the photo icon shown on their phone when scheduling a ride.
The incident that took place on campus has frightened some students like UM sophomore Sarah Boughan.
“It’s really scary to think about,” she said. “I’ve never second guessed a taxi before. I feel like once I’m in a taxi going home, I’m safe, but now I double-check everything.”
The UPD offers the following safety tips:
- Don’t accept open drinks from anyone.
- Let friends know your plan.
- Let someone know when you are leaving so they know when to expect you to arrive.
- If you are alone, ask Rebel Patrol to escort you on campus. The phone number for Rebel Patrol is 662-915-4911.
La Crosse said she hopes she’s prevented some incidents by implementing safety regulations.
“I’d like to think we’ve stopped a few of these situations from happening,” she said.