ABPF firstname.lastname@example.org_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2006-05-03 published
Four taxi drivers attacked in 24 hours
Father of four dead after passenger stabs him in the neck, back and torso
By Timothy APPLEBY, Page A24
A 40-year-old cab driver died after being stabbed by a passenger in east Toronto early yesterday -- one in a wave of four attacks on city-area taxi drivers within 24 hours.
Mahmood BHATTI, a father of four, was found bleeding from the back, neck and chest at around 3: 30 a.m. after his Beck cab slammed into the back of a parked car at Coxwell and Danforth Avenues.
He remained in hospital on life support, but doctors pronounced him dead at 10: 20 p.m.
More than a dozen cabbies who gathered outside Saint Michael's Hospital while Mr. BHATTI's family were at his bedside mourned him as a hard-working colleague and exemplary parent.
Beck general manager Gail BECK- SOUTER said the same of Mr. BHATTI, who owned his car and had driven for the company for about six years.
"This is a real tragedy," she said. "He is a terrific guy, very enthusiastic about business. Always wanting to make improvements within the industry. The guy with the good ideas. He'll be sorely missed."
A man was spotted fleeing the scene, and police are optimistic digital photographs from the in-car camera, required in all city taxis, will lead to an arrest.
In Markham, meanwhile, a second cab driver was in stable condition after his throat was cut in a carjacking around midnight.
In a third incident on Eglinton Avenue in west-end Toronto at around 5: 40 a.m., a cabbie driving for Royal Taxi was beaten and robbed of his vehicle, apparently after an argument. The car is a blue Chevrolet Impala bearing the licence plate ABPF 744. The driver was listed in stable condition.
And early Monday, a cabbie driving two men north on Highway 400 was robbed at gunpoint of cash and his phone and left stranded by the roadside after his taxi was stolen.
It was later recovered at a curling rink in Bradford, about midway between Toronto and Barrie, and provincial police retrieved photographs of the two assailants.
The last slaying of a Toronto cab driver occurred in September, after a gap of several years, when Morteazai KHORASSANI, 42, was stabbed in his parked taxi behind an apartment building on Don Mills Road. A 19-year-old man has been charged with second-degree murder.
In general, violence against the roughly 5,000 taxis and 10,000 drivers has declined steeply in recent years, after cameras and other safety measures were implemented.
"Crimes committed against cab drivers have decreased by about 70 per cent since 2000," said Jim BELL, president of Diamond Taxicab and a leader of the Toronto Taxicab Alliance, an owners group.
Mr. BELL, who knows Mr. BHATTI, credits a range of city initiatives for the decline -- the in-car cameras, global positioning devices, special emergency flashers and enhanced driver-safety training.
"This has been a tough day," he said. "But it's an anomaly. We've seen it over the years where we've had a whole rash of incidents in a very short time and then nothing happens for a couple of years. You just can't predict when and how it's going to happen."
Bruce ROBERTSON, who heads the city's licensing division, concurred.
"This is a dangerous profession, for obvious reasons, but what's happened here is not typical at all. I don't know what would explain it."
Co-op driver Edward LEIGHTON, a 16-year veteran of the roads, says he figured out the risks long ago.
"I drive during the day, in the downtown, and I haven't had a problem in 10 years," he said.
"Late at night -- that's where almost of the problems happen. I'm cautious; I think that's why I've survived. I'm choosy about what areas I go into. But a lot of drivers have big expenses, they're desperate, so they'll pick up anybody."
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