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CNN Today

Los Angeles Cracks Down on Illegal Cabbies Ahead of Democratic National Convention

Aired February 16, 2000 - 2:09 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Democrats head to Los Angeles this summer for their convention, and city leaders worry some delegates may get taken for a ride by illegal cabbies.

Another political story for you. Here's CNN's Jennifer Auther.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JENNIFER AUTHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Los Angeles, upcoming host to the Democratic National Convention and a haven for bandit taxi cabs. This driver is handcuffed only as long as investigators need to run a check on his license. His cab lacks a city seal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're trying to get a permit, but it's hard to get it from here.

SHAUD ALEXANDER, DEPT. OF TRANSPORTATION INVESTIGATOR: I've already got a handful of their business cards. This is just considered contraband pursuant to the arrest.

AUTHER: Los Angeles has fewer taxis per capita than both New York and Chicago. Ten cab companies are licensed to operate 2,183 cabs in Los Angeles. Each has a city seal indicating it's legal.

MAYOR RICHARD RIORDAN, LOS ANGELES: We have very strict enforcement rules to make sure that taxi cabs are licensed, that the drivers do not have criminal records, that the cabs are safe cabs.

TOM DRISCHLER, DEPT. OF TRANSPORTATION, LOS ANGELES: We set the numbers based on franchise ordinances, studies we've done over the years and public need and necessity.

AUTHER: But critics argue, with estimates of bandit taxis in L.A. between 1,500 and 4,000, regulations serve just one purpose.

DANA BERLINER, INSTITUTE FOR JUSTICE: They're there to protect the existing companies, and you can see that in the regulations because they explicitly say that in order to get a license, you've got to prove that the existing companies can't handle the business that's out there.

AUTHER: Los Angeles is cracking down, officials say, because of a tragic wake-up call last November. The driver of this cab was what investigators call a pure bandit. He was unlicensed and uninsured. All six people inside were killed when the driver tried to beat a commuter train just 20 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

As with most suspected bandit drivers, this one was cited and released with a court date. If he is found guilty, he'll face a fine of $150 to $200.

(on camera): Los Angeles is now taking bids for new cab franchises and renewal applications. According to Mayor Riordan, more than half the legal cab companies in L.A. have hired lobbyists who have descended upon city hall in an effort to get those permits.

Jennifer Auther, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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