THE first of its kind in Sussex, an initiative has been launched which aims to drive forward the sharing of information between police and taxi firms.
Taxi Watch was conceived in response to a number of reports from taxi drivers of people not paying for their taxi fares.
Representatives from Hastings Police, Hastings Borough Council and the taxi firms met to sign an information sharing protocol.
There are currently 21 firms signed up to receive information directly from police.
Inspector Chris Veale, of the Hastings Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: “This new initiative is the first in Sussex. Taxi Watch is unique to Hastings district.
“In essence this is a simple way for police, the council and the taxi operatives to work together towards a shared outcome of reducing crime and helping to protect taxi firms against financial loss.
“There is also scope for taxi drivers to highlight to police people who are potentially vulnerable and to give them the confidence to report something that doesn’t appear to be quite right.
“The taxi driver may well be in a position to help someone in need.
“Police will share with scheme members the details of people who have not paid for their fare.
“Not only is this a crime but it also means financial loss and time wasted for the taxi driver.
“All taxi operators are then armed with addresses, detailed descriptions and/or photographs of individuals who have not paid for their fares. It is up to their discretion whether or not to accept the person or to request up front payment.”
Hastings Borough Council licensing officer Bob Brown said: “At the council we fully support Taxi Watch, It is another tool to help make the town safer.
“The taxi and private hire trade are very important businesses supporting the community and they deserve all the support that the council and police can deliver.”
Council leader Jeremy Birch added: “Community safety is important to us and the town’s taxi service is valuable to us.
“We already support Bar Watch and Shop Watch and will support this new project wholeheartedly, for a safe and vibrant town.”