Boston Cabbies to Boycott High-Crime Areas
Boston, MA - 7/9/2001
By John Ellement
Yves Andre spent 17 years picking up strangers before one of them shot
him Tuesday night, leaving the Haitian immigrant paralyzed from the
waist down and some of his shocked and grieving fellow Boston
cabdrivers vowing not to pick up rides late at night in high-crime
The drivers' declaration prompted an immediate riposte from City
Council President Charles C. Yancey and other neighborhood leaders,
who say that allowing cabdrivers to choose whom to pick up and whom to
ignore furthers stereotypes of people and neighborhoods.
For years, Yancey and former city councilor Bruce Bolling, among
others, campaigned hard to restore taxi service to neighborhoods long
shunned by drivers. But now, in the days since Andre's shooting,
drivers have said in interviews they will avoid Dorchester, Mattapan,
and Roxbury out of fear they too will be attacked. The informal
boycott will intensify at night, when many drivers said they feel
And, the cabdrivers said, they will continue to drive past teenagers
or young men from those neighborhoods, especially if there are two or
more in a group.
''You meet some good people in Dorchester, I tell you,'' said Yves
Gillis, a taxi driver who acknowledged avoiding the area after dark.
''But it's very, very dangerous at night in Dorchester.''
Cab service to these neighborhoods - home to many people of color -
has declined not because of crime but because of the draw of a more
lucrative cab business in downtown Boston and at Logan International
Airport. The further reductions in service would affect city
communities that badly need transportation alternatives.
The attack on Andre, 43, left him paralyzed. He had picked up three
young men on Callendar Street in Dorchester and was shot as he dropped
them off on Alwin Street in Hyde Park. No one has been arrested.
Yesterday, cabdriver Claudio Veiga sat behind the wheel of his cab in
Fields Corner, but said he had no interest in picking up a fare even
though he was in one of Dorchester's busiest commercial districts.
''Because of the danger,'' explained Veiga, a recent emigre from Cape
Verde who lives in Dorchester and who has been driving a cab for eight
''The money's better'' downtown and at the airport, Veiga said, ''and
there is more safety.''
Cabdriver Yves Lindor, a friend of Andre's for 17 years, said he is
convinced that drivers will choose areas they consider to be safer in
the wake of the attack.
But those who represent the residents of these neighborhoods said
yesterday that they will fight any efforts by cabdrivers to avoid the
communities, decrying such activity as racial profiling.
''It's very dangerous, quite frankly, for anyone to assume that the
only individuals who may commit this kind of crime would be young,
black males,'' said Yancey, who lives in Mattapan. ''It's against the
law for the cabdriver to refuse a fare. I expect that to be
Yancey said he will urge Boston Police Commissioner Paul F. Evans to
intensify police protection for drivers. And at the same time, he
said, he will also ask Evans to prosecute drivers who boycott minority
According to police, taxi drivers do not have to pick up anyone who is
visibly intoxicated or clearly threatening. But a cabdriver passing up
a fare for no good reason faces the possibility of having his or her
license suspended, police said.
Yancey pointed out that, although the three young men were picked up
in Dorchester, the shooting happened in Hyde Park.
''I would just note that the people got off in Hyde Park. That's where
they apparently committed the crime,'' Yancey said. ''[The suspects]
may actually be from Hyde Park.''
At the same time, City Councilor Chuck Turner of Roxbury said licensed
taxi drivers could face an economic penalty in the event of a boycott
because gypsy-cab drivers will replace them in neighborhoods he
''We certainly feel that the issue of the safety of drivers has to be
looked at,'' Turner said. ''But in the alternative, if they resort to
this boycott, then we will have to rely on men and women who are
willing to provide those services in place'' of taxi drivers.
Turner also said that ''mass stereotyping'' of young men in minority
neighborhoods ''is never helpful.''
''It's certainly not fair to make a blanket indictment of a particular
section of our community,'' he added.
Mark Cohen, director of licensing at the Boston Police Hackney unit,
said cabdrivers have much less to fear now than they did in the early
1990s when violent crimes hit all-time highs.
While not endorsing a boycott, Cohen said it was understandable that
some drivers are fearful.
''No matter how statistically safe our neighborhoods are, we don't
want cabdrivers to let their guards down,'' he said. ''They are a
Safety concerns aside, Cohen said, taxi service is already in short
supply and high demand in Dorchester, Mattapan, and Roxbury as well as
in ''outlying'' neighborhoods including West Roxbury or Charlestown.
Andre, whose shooting has sparked the boycott calls, was one of those
cabdrivers who chose to drive in the very neighborhoods drivers are
now avoiding out of a belief that he was helping his community.
Lindor, Andre's friend, recalled that Andre once told him: ''These are
our people, so let me try to help them.''
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