'Taxis are the fourth emergency service' say Leeds drivers as they call for crackdown on youths throwing stones
Taxi drivers in Leeds have said 'enough is enough' over a rise in youths stoning their vehicles.
Drivers protested outside West Yorkshire Police's Elland Road headquarters on Tuesday calling for tougher approaches to young people throwing stones and even bricks at their cars.
Attacks have been going on a for long time but have risen in recent years, according to the drivers, who said taxis are the "fourth emergency service".
"When a brick comes through your windscreen it's like a bomb going off", driver Akooji Badat told the crowds.
"Taxis are the fourth emergency service. We want the council to take more action. We want to get rid of the stickers on taxis so that we are no longer a target."
Drivers want to get rid of stickers so that they will no longer be a target, with many saying the attacks may be racially-motivated.
Most taxis now send texts or in-app messages to customers with the car's registration, meaning the stickers are no longer necessary to distinguish them.
Protest organiser Asif Afzal said it was "no secret" that the majority of drivers were south Asian males, and that they were seeing an increasing number of groups of young, white males attacking them on estates in areas such as Bramley, East End Park, Armley and Gipton.
Mr Afzal, 35, who is self-employed, said attacking moving vehicles didn't just present safety risks to drivers and passengers, but pedestrians too.
"There are all sorts of horror stories", he said. "I know of one lad who had a breeze block thrown through his window while a customer was inside and he had to swerve, nearly hitting two pedestrians.
"It's a wonder nobody has been killed."
One driver who has been targeted is Farooq Khan, 34, who was driving a family when a brick was thrown at the side of his vehicle in a recent incident.
"Luckily it just caused bodywork damage", he said."Kids congregate at the side of the road and throw things - it's very intimidating.
"It used to be just at night time but now you get it at all times of the day, especially when it's the holidays and kids are off school. This has been happening a long time but we are definitely seeing it more often now."
Fellow driver Arshad Khan, 35, said police had done little to tackle the issue.
He said: "We are always ringing police again and again and all we get is just a crime reference number. There are no consequences for the people who do this.
"These attacks are costing us our livelihoods and we need to feed our families at the end of the day."
On Monday, drivers held talks with Chief Inspector Richard Padwell over ways of cracking down on the rising number of attacks.
Chief Insp Padwell said: “We fully appreciate the impact that incidents, such as stone throwing, have on private hire drivers and their general sense of safety. We have recently met with them to discuss their concerns and look at how we can more effectively support them and improve the situation going forward.
“These incidents are completely unacceptable and we will continue to work with the drivers and our partner agencies to put long-term problem-solving measures in place to tackle the issues.
*We have previously identified and focused attention on a number of key hot spot areas, primarily in east Leeds, and we will be working with our neighbourhood teams to target those areas.
“We are keen to keep doing everything we can to identify those involved and take robust action against them, including exploring the full range of control measures available through Leeds Anti-Social Behaviour Team.
“At the same time we will be working with schools and youth organisations to educate young people around the dangers and risks of this type of behaviour which not only impacts on the drivers but also affects a service provided to the communities in which those young people live.”