Top 7 ways to stay safe whilst taking a cab overseas
Dennis, a young Singapore executive, was on his first business trip to China. He was then working as a manager in a logistics company. Outside his hotel in Guangzhou, he hailed a cab to get to his intended direction. As he sat in the cab, his mind went over the presentation he has to give at his client’s office. He mentally reviewed the flow of his powerpoint presentation, the key points that he had to highlight, and the sales pitch he has to make. Distracted by his thoughts, Dennis did not notice that the cab driver had taken a detour from the route that would have taken him to the intended destination. Not that it really mattered – this was his first trip in Guangzhou and his lack of familiarity with the roads would have made it difficult for him to detect any anomaly in the route taken. There were a couple of things that should trigger off ‘alarm bells’ had he paid more attention as he was getting into the cab. For one thing, he should have noticed that there was no photo identification of the cab driver displayed as is required by almost all cab companies in most major cities. Another trigger would be that there the door handles on the inside of the taxi had been removed! Dennis ended up being driven to an isolated destination where he was robbed at knife point by the rogue taxi driver. Dennis was lucky - things could have got a lot uglier, and deadlier.
In a news report (3 February 2015, New York Daily News), a 33 year old Brooklyn woman was raped and robbed by the taxi driver of a cab she hailed along the road. The 26 year old
taxi driver, Esa Alusaimi, tried to strike a conversation with his passenger by asking her
inappropriate probing questions like ‘Do you have a boyfriend?’, ‘How old are you?’, etc.. Alarm bells should have gone off but the lady passenger put these questions off as just a case of an over friendly taxi driver. Then the ride home took an ugly detour. Moments later, the taxi driver started to talk about his penis and then pulled over in a deserted
street, before he climbed into the back where he violently forced her to perform oral sex before raping her. He dropped her off on desolated street after relieving her of her purse.
With the help of the description provided by the victim, the police arrested Esa (picture shown above) not long after the rape on the night itself.
The 33 year old told the Daily News “People think they live in these safe neighborhoods. No neighborhood is safe from this”. Despite having had the culprit caught and placed in custody, she continues to live in fear - as in her own words “this guy has my address”.
(The 33 year old Brooklyn woman, still wearing her hospital bracelet, recounts her ordeal)
Taxi Rides are Dangerous – Tactics to Stay Safe
It is important to first recognize that taxi rides are probably the most dangerous part of a journey especially if you are in an unfamiliar country, city or parts of a town. When you get into a taxi, you are putting yourself in a very vulnerable position where the taxi driver is in control of your well being and safety. There are a few things you can do to ensure that you do not become a victim of a robbery, kidnapping, rape or even murder:
1. Know Where you are Going
Familiarise yourself with the best route to your destination and do not let the driver veer off from your preplanned route. Use your mobile GPS to track your route, or in a foreign country, invest in a satellite GPS device that gives you good real time tracking.
2. Do your Research
If you are travelling to a different country, city or parts of a suburb that you have no local knowledge, it pays to do your homework to find out of the common taxi scams or crimes in that area you are living or travelling to. With the advent of technology, this is easy to do – e.g. google search, read blogs etc. Research also into which are the more reputable taxi companies and keep their numbers so that you can call for a taxi service from the cab companies that you can trust
3. Take Control
Do not let a taxi driver (or anyone) talk you out of going to your original destination or convince you to let him take you to another place or establishment. For examples, the cheapest place to buy a camera, the best place to get a good time with cheap alcohol and sexy girls, etc.
4. Is it Legit?
Before you get into the cab, take a good look to check for suspicious looking exterior (e.g. a ‘conveniently’ dirtied number plate, number plate held together by wires, etc), and interior as you get in (e.g. missing picture and details of driver, missing or not working meter, vehicle interior that does not look right, missing door handles etc). Look before you close the door, and in doubt, get out of the cab straight away.
5. Stay Alert
Put aside your thoughts about other matters and pay attention to your surroundings. Are you going on course as planned, is the driver behaving suspiciously or showing undue anxiety, are you going into a desolated place that you know is not part of the neighborhood that you should be going past? Pay attention also to vehicles such as motorbikes or cars that seem to be following the route that you are taking. If it seems to you to be a coincidental, believe that it isn’t! Stay alert and put away your smartphone to avoid distractions, or worst, fall asleep during the ride.
6. Do not Share Cabs with Strangers
It might seem like a good idea to ‘split cab fare’ with a stranger but the savings do not justify the risks you have just put yourself in. The over friendly stranger who happened to be going in the same direction as you and offering to split the cab fare with you, could be working together with the rogue driver to rob or kidnap you. Do not allow a taxi driver to persuade you to pick up strangers along the route as again, they could be working together with the driver to make you their victim.
7. Stay Defensive
As a general rule of thumb, the windows of the cab should always stay up or at most, slightly lowered. A common crime in Malaysia, for example, is for thieves on motor bikes to ride up to the window you are sitting next to, before reaching in to grab your bag, your smartphone or other valuables.
If you travel often by cabs, it pays to invest in both an improvised weapon such as a tactical pen, and taking some real self-defense classes on how to use them. Jason Hanson, former CIA officer, and a private security consultant, carries with him on a daily basis a tactical pen that looks harmless enough, but is really a weapon in disguise. Built usually of aircraft grade aluminum, the tactical pen is often much thicker and heavier than a regular pen. It also often has a crown or pointed end to cause more pain or damage to muscles and bones of your attacker than is possible with the average person’s bare hands. At Kapap Academy (Singapore), our Executive Tactical Pen Self Defense seminars are highly popular with travelling executives, ladies and youth going abroad for studies.
Another alternative is to carry a utility/ pocket knife in countries that do not have clear laws against knife carrying in public places. However, carry one only if you know how to use it, and are not squeamish about drawing blood in self-defense. It has been found that in United States, a woman who is willing to deploy a knife or gun in a rape attack has only a 1% chance of getting rape! Kapap Academy (Singapore) being the top realistic self-defense school in Singapore, runs regular classes in knife use for self-defense situations against rape, and other life and death scenarios where extreme acts of violence are justified.
Background of Kapap Academy Singapore
Kapap Academy Singapore is the top realistic self defense school in Singapore having trained over 83 schools and 123 companies (largely multinationals, statutory boards etc). In 2014, Yahoo! Sports independently voted Kapap Academy Singapore as one of the top 5 martial arts schools in Singapore. Of these 5 schools, Kapap Academy Singapore is the only school that focuses primarily on realistic personal protection skills. Individuals ranging in age from 5 years in age to retirees in the 70s study our eclectic system known as Modern Street Combatives for a variety of reasons. We are in essence, a community of social activists serving the larger communities we live in. (Website: www.kapapsingapore.com).