City Hall's Favorite Tool in Uber Crackdown: Undercover Vice Stings by Dallas Cops

trianglestingthing.jpg
Andrea Grimes
Dallas vice officers in the simpler, pre-Uber days of 2010, when they could focus on catching johns.
On any given day, the Dallas Police Department's vice control unit is combing the city's streets in search of prostitutes and johns, illegal gambling parlors and people having sex in parks, restrooms, and bars. Recently, they've shifted their focus to a less traditional target: drivers for Uber.

See also: Dallas Swears It's Not Trying to Crush Uber, Just Regulate it into an Unrecognizable Form

The city manager's office said on Friday that it issued 61 tickets to drivers for illegally operating a transportation-for-hire service during a recent crackdown on the company. On Monday, Councilman Scott Griggs suggested, and Mayor Mike Rawlings confirmed to The Dallas Morning News, that undercover Dallas cops were issuing the citations.

See also: Dallas Wants to Rewrite its Taxi Rules to Outlaw Uber, the App-Based Private Driver Service

Such stings aren't Dallas' invention. Last January, Washington, D.C., seized an Uber driver's car after handing him a $1,650 in fines. In L.A., undercover enforcement officers have used Uber's app to summon "bandit taxicabs," which they subsequently ticket. Dallas appears to be unique, however, in the deployment of its vice squad.

There aren't a lot of details right now on the nature of the stings, or who ordered them, or why police were called in to enforce something that is typically the purview of code compliance, which has an $825,000 annual budget for regulating transportation-for-hire services. Just that they actually happened.

That fact alone raises a lot of questions for Griggs, who has been one of the louder critics of City Hall's ham-fisted attempt to regulate Uber out of existence. Among them: Is this really a wise use of city resources? If City Hall already has the power to ticket Uber drivers, why does it need the draconian new ordinance that was proposed? And if not, then what the hell is going on?

Good questions, all of them. It now looks like they will get a thorough airing before the Dallas City Council. Rawlings told the Morning News he plans to pull the item off of Wednesday's agenda and send it to committee.




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93 comments
whocareswhatithink
whocareswhatithink

Want to know who slipped it on the agenda - A.C Gonzalez

ac.gonzalez at dallascityhall.com

Another
Another

I could understand if the cabbies were reliable. Most of them no show unless you're at a hotel or airport & the rest make you wish you just rented a car.

dave832
dave832

Hey .... Jack Bewley .... owner of Yellow Checker Cab. Thought ya could have your bitch Zapata to slip one in for ya, eh? Dumbass. 

How about this ... learn to compete! Have clean cabs, have the drivers take a bath once in a while, arrive quicker than 45 minutes after dispatched.


Lance Parker
Lance Parker

That blows my mind! Arresting people that are involved in the advancement of technology.

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

Will someone plz remind our council buffoons about the last time one of theirs got in bed with a cab company. Was not pretty.

Plz someo e find out which one of the council is forcing this stupidity.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

I've not used this service, but it's no wonder the city wants to shut them down. Anything that runs efficiently makes the city look bad in comparison.

Maybe we should give those organized folks at Uber a shot at the festering mess that is DISD - they could hardly do worse than the current mob.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

A serious question ... Just how do the VC get around the entrapment issue?  After all, they do have to ask for a Uber cab (vehicle, town car, whatever) to come and pick them up.

lewbowski300
lewbowski300

I don't see how cops go home at night and see themselves as anything more than simpleton hired hands of the monied interests that control them like lap dog thugs.

DonnaHarris
DonnaHarris

It's a new business model colliding with an old business model that will take some time to get used to, while all companies work out their own kinks and profit structures, however,  

I don't get having to wait 30 minutes in this day and age, for ANY company. Why should it take so long for cab companies to dispatch someone, unless the driver lives far, far away, from town. Yet, another reason we need to build low-income homes with new schools, the service industry can afford, in the City, but I digress. 

If something happens to someone's family member, while they are waiting, an extra 30 minutes, when they don't have to, I would not blame their families for coming after the City of Dallas for retribution because they forced a law, on the public, that puts them in possible danger.  

I can understand how frustrating it would be for a cab driver waiting in front of hotel stands, if they got scooped by an Uber driver. But how is that different than hiring a super shuttle to pick you up from a hotel?  In case of standing areas, the industry probably needs to update that model, however, we should not punish companies who can provide a faster service. 

If we agree to the terms of service with a private driver or a taxi company, what business is it of the City? Neiman's and Sears both pay sales tax.  Isn't that like the City telling Neiman Marcus how much they can charge or how they should provide service, so Sears can stay in the game? It's called capitalism. My favorite free will.

If we slip, fall and break our neck at Sears or Neiman's, what is the City of Dallas going to do to help us?  Probably nothing. As property owners in the COD, do we want them taking on the liability of a private enterprises? That is why they have insurance, is it not?

Still trying to figure out what the rub is here. Are taxi companies worried they will lose their drivers to Uber? If a company doesn't allow a driver to contract for their competitor, then technically, are they contractors or are they employees?  

There are many good ideas to make it all work, but I'm afraid all companies will need to update their model, just a tad.

In the mean time, I was poking around and found the karaoke yellow cab driver that might be kind of fun. Only, I want him to let me drive the taxi while he sits the front seat and sings to me. Wouldn't that be fun?   http://www.karaokeyellowcab.com/

Lincoln Apeland
Lincoln Apeland

This is utter horse shit. Someone IS trying to crush Uber. Someone has gotten to the City and paid them or convinced them, or someone in the city has a vested interested in taxi companies. They are trying to re-write laws that would force Uber to operate as a Limo service and wait 30 minutes to pick up passengers. I see no legitimate reason for this targeting. No reasons they have given make sense.

Larry Richard
Larry Richard

I love how we would rather crack down on people trying to make a living rather then taking out drug dealers. Why does the city or state crack down in cabbies? because they are not getting the income from licensing.... GREAT use of tax dollars there buddy....FAIL

death2garland
death2garland

dui is big business for government and lawyers alike...and nobody fucks with big business

VoiceOreason
VoiceOreason

Was wondering how long it would take the City to toss the cops under the bus. Who ordered them to give tickets?   

During the mayoral election, I said, he would make a great City Manager. What's David Kunkle doing these days?  

wcvemail
wcvemail

These city-ticketed drivers are also city-permitted livery drivers. They're paying double for doing their jobs, as well as being subjected to the actual LE encounter. Were it me, I would quit or holler. Are there THAT many livery drivers in Dallas that Uber has an indefinite hiring supply?

dingo
dingo

Innovation vs Regulation.

Sure Uber fills a need with cool new technology.

But what about the regulations that force old line companies to service dangerous and lower income areas while Uber is free to decline service in those areas?

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@dave832 We just learned why cabs never get there quick, FUCKING CITY ORDINANCES require a 30 minute wait.  fuck me

dmtrousd
dmtrousd

If you have the opportunity to, try it. My friend has an account, he clicked on his app (credit card info already stored, location automatically shows up from your GPS location), and within 5 minutes driver arrived. Took us to destination. Just hop out, because it's a pre-set fee. No "sorry my credit card machine is down" BS.

Same was true for return trip. 5 minute wait. You rate them, and they rate you.

weirdozmedia
weirdozmedia

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul "Entrapment" exists mostly only in movies, in reality they'd only have to worry about entrapment if they pretty much put a gun to your head and forced you to commit a crime.  It's kinda like that other urban myth perpetrated by movies, that undercover cops have to tell you that they're cops if you ask them. Ha!

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@lewbowski300 They are vice cops.  They don't pursue any crimes BUT victimless crimes.  They gave up their souls a long, long time ago.

dmtrousd
dmtrousd

What were you talking about, again? You lost me after the fifth paragraph or so, and who says "COD," anyway? Was that on an episode of GCB's?

DonnaHarris
DonnaHarris

Btw, since my expertise is in marketing, and everyone knows it, I want to state for the record,  no one or company is paying me for my opinion. As a home owner in the COD, I feel entitled to have one and give it freely.

aljessie
aljessie

@Lincoln Apeland The City of Dallas has vested interest in cab companies because of the ridiculous amount of operating fees they pay to the city. 


TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@VoiceOreason 

If he's still living in Dallas, then - like the rest of us, he is laughing so that he doesn't weep.

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul  Yesterday, there were 6 (SIX) motorcycle cops planted in front of my building in Uptown. It appeared they were flagging down random cars. No radar guns. There was a guy standing in the middle of the street, and there were cars pulled off on both sides. (one way street) I turned to get to my parking lot before they got me, so I don't know what they were doing, but it went on for hours. I'm sure it was a very valuable use of police resources.

russell.allison1
russell.allison1

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul My guess is that the guy that stole your truck drove it for a few days, took what he wanted and then abandoned it.  The city noticed it and after a few days had it towed.  The tow truck driver, after taking what he wanted from it, took it the impound lot where the employees took what they wanted and then set the remaining, unwanted, probably inoperable and unrecognizable shell of your truck to the back of the lot to rust into the soil.  But, take heart-much like donated body parts sustain human life, your truck lives on in the vehicles of the worthless thieves who vicitmized it.  Feel better????

Lakewooder
Lakewooder

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul 

Police are way too busy ticketing people for improper lane changes, driving without seatbelts and not coming to a complete stop at stop signs. You expect them to investigate stolen vehicles too? Ain't nobody got time for that.

wcvemail
wcvemail

@dingo I don't mean to pick, but if you've got a link to back that up, I'd like to see it. That would cast a new light on the situation for me, if indeed the city requires all cab companies to service equally all parts of the city. That's one of the gotchas about our USPS, required to service unprofitable addresses, whereas private delivery companies can simply refuse service.

WylieH
WylieH

Have you actually ever tried to call a Yellow Cab or Cowboy Cab to take you to/from these dangerous/low income areas?

DonnaHarris
DonnaHarris

@dmtrousd

When the Lord speaks to me divinely through a pair of Jimmy Choos, developing a bottomless pit of inspiration and lofty ideas, goes without saying.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@Montemalone @ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul registration and inspection stickers.  They do that and speed traps in front of our business all the time.

Unfortunately for you and the cats, they haven't found a way to crack down on JJ's delivery cyclists.

dingo
dingo

@wcvemail@dingoDallas city code Chapter 45:

SEC. 45-5.1.     CITY-WIDE TAXICAB SERVICE REQUIRED.

     (a)     Except as otherwise provided by the holder's operating authority, a holder shall:

          (1)     provide taxicab service to the general public to and from any point inside the city that is accessible by public street, except that this provision does not require a holder to subject a taxicab to mob violence or destruction;

          (2)     answer each call received for service inside the city as soon as practicable, and if the service cannot be rendered within a reasonable time, the holder shall inform the caller of the reason for the delay and the approximate time required to answer the call; and

          (3)     maintain a single station for the purpose of receiving calls and dispatching taxicabs that is operational 24 hours each day.

     (b)     The station required by Subsection (a)(3) of this section may be located outside the city of Dallas but must be located within Collin, Dallas, Denton, or Tarrant County, except that any station that is operated from the permanent and established place of business required under Section 45-2.4(a)(9) of this chapter must be located within the city of Dallas.  (Ord. Nos. 15127; 23152)

SEC. 45-5.2.     REPRESENTATION OF AVAILABILITY OF TAXICAB.

     A driver may not represent that his taxicab is engaged when it is in fact vacant or vacant when it is in fact engaged.  (Ord. 15127)

SEC. 45-5.3.     REFUSAL TO CONVEY PASSENGERS.

     (a)     While operating a taxicab a driver shall not refuse to convey a person who requests service unless:

          (1)     the person is disorderly;

          (2)     the driver is engaged in answering a previous request for service;

          (3)     the driver has reason to believe that the person is engaged in unlawful conduct; or

          (4)     the driver is in fear of his personal safety.

     (b)     While operating a taxicab, a driver shall not refuse service requested by a radio dispatch when the location for pick up is within a reasonable distance from the location of the taxicab.  (Ord. 15127)

dave832
dave832

@markzero @ScottsMerkin Correct ... that's one of the conditions Bewley wants ... he can't complete with Uber's 5 minute response time. 

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@Montemalone @RTGolden1 @ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul When I worked out in Westlake, the cops would drive our parking lot and then wait at the exit, when you pulled out of the lot they pulled you over for reg. or inspection.  I got ticketed for an improperly mounted front license plate.  Since Westlake has 1 cop, one day it'd be westlake, the next it was a Keller cop,  sometimes it was a Southlake cop

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

@RTGolden1 @Montemalone @ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul I knew the HP cops liked to do that. They park in the alley between the estate on the corner of Turtle Creek and the church on Wycliffe (with an E in HP) or on Turtle Creek behind the hedges all the time and bust the East Dallas crowd that cuts through on their way to the Tollway. Or maybe they just get the ones that roll through the stop signs. I don't know for sure.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@markzero @RTGolden1 My good friend, I am merely voicing the questions raised by the pasted portion of the city code above. ;)

markzero
markzero

@RTGolden1 Is it a car service or an organizer of car services? It's a bit like saying Expedia is an airline or hotel chain or whatever else for which they take reservations and handle billing.

As far as location: it's the internet, man, it's all around you :)

DirtyP1
DirtyP1

@everlastingphelps I'm with you on the CC thing. I also enjoy the bellguy at the hotel that summons cabs and gets tipped. So I need to tip the guy that's calling for the cab, and a lot of times there are a line of them, then I have to hope the cab accepts CC, because I rarely carry cash, then deal with the dirty cab and the guy that hates his job or is on the phone with someone and speaking a different language while he's driving. Sometimes you can even get the trifecta of this happening. Oh, you don't have change for a $20? What's with the sign on the side of the cab saying driver carries less than $___, if he's only taking cash, how is that possible? Is he stopping by the bank a few times a day?  If I'm paying for your services, have a clean car, don't be on the phone while you're working for my fare, and take a credit card. It's not that hard. I prefer to use a car service after my trial and failures with cabs. The drivers are more professional and many times the fare is the same.

dsmithy3211
dsmithy3211

@RTGolden1I think you're right, Uber operates like a (well organized) limo/shuttle service. So well organized that it is, for all intents and purposes, a taxicab service, albeit one that you can't hail without the Uber app.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@dingo @wcvemail   Just a question here.  Is Uber's single call station for dispatch 24 hrs a day located in Collin, Denton, Dallas or Tarrant County?  If not, there is no need for a new ordinance, Uber is already in violation if the existing ordinance.

Kinda sucks because it seems to be an incredibly innovative and forward thinking business model.

Then again, Uber is actually a car service, is it not?  Does that fall under the same ordinance as taxicabs?  I wouldn't think so, more under the same ordinance as a limo service or shuttle service.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@SteveS Things cabs are "legally required" to do but DON'T:

Take credit cards

Pick up anywhere in Dallas

Deliver to anywhere in Dallas

Take a fare when they aren't already on a call

(Also known as, "their jobs".  And people wonder why everyone who actually USES cabs think they suck.)

SteveS
SteveS

Because you're probably not going to find a good paying fare BACK from a poor neighborhood to a nice hotel, the airport, etc. Which means now the cabbie is 'deadheading' back with an empty cab and having to pay for his own gas.   

wcvemail
wcvemail

@VoiceOreason Good point, miles is miles on the meter, no matter how scenic or un-. That discounts my comparison to the USPS and unprofitable addresses that don't justify the business. 

VoiceOreason
VoiceOreason

@wcvemail

@dingo

Just because it is mandated, doesn't mean cabbies comply.  If we have trouble getting cabs to show up to good areas of town late at night, why would they show up to bad areas of town?  I would like to see the statistics of

.....how many calls they get from these "dangerous" areas you speak of vs. the number they follow through and pick up.

.....compare refusal to accept credit cards in dangerous parts of town vs. non-dangerous parts of town.  

......which zip codes their credit card machines  mysteriously don't work in. 

A cab fare is a cab fare, no matter what part of town it goes. How is going to a poor part of town, less profitable? 

wcvemail
wcvemail

@dingo @wcvemail Thank you, Dingo.

Since we know that the companies don't really service all parts of the city, and we know now that "as soon as practicable" is officially 30 minutes, then the cab companies are in breach of their license to operate. IMO.

As it is, the cab co's have a legit point to make that they're covering for unprofitable and dangerous areas, and therefore should receive consideration.

Alternatively, the city could officially waive the all-areas requirement from the license to reflect reality on the street, which would benefit Uber. Pigs could fly, too.

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