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Tough new law targets gypsy cabs

August 19, 2008 |  4:16 pm

Mean_streets_2 Follow that cab! That's the word from Sacramento as state legislators approved a law giving California cities and counties the right to punish gypsy cabs, Patrick McGreevy reports:

The state Senate approved SB 1519, which would allow cities to fine bandit taxi operators up to $5,000.

"Scofflaws may ignore local taxicab licenses and regulations, but when their phone lines go down, they’ll lose their main source of business," said Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), the bill's author. "They are a tremendous danger to many of our urban areas."

Cities issue permits to taxicabs that require inspections, insurance and set strict rules on how much customers can be charged. Los Angeles officials have estimated there are about 2,000 bandit taxi drivers operating in the city and last year launched a crackdown that resulted in hundreds of arrests.

The legislation was supported by Los Angeles officials, who said that bandit cabs have been known to operate without safety inspections, insurance and proper driver certification. Several permitted taxicab companies, which have lost business to the bandit cabs, also threw their support behind the bill.

If the $5,000 fine doesn't work, the bill allows cities to disconnect gypsy cabs' telephone service. Next step — no TV privileges. (Kidding.)

—Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Robert Durell / Los Angeles Times