Taxi drivers in Peterborough claim they are increasingly coming under attack, with one even being left on crutches.
The recent spate in violence and anti-social behaviour has also seen numerous reports of thieves smashing taxi windows, and customers dodging their fares.
Moreover, the Peterborough Private Hire Drivers’ Association believes allegations made against them receive an immediate police response, while officers are much slower to come out when their drivers say they are being attacked.
The association said it would like to see a greater presence on the streets, and it highlighted their drivers’ role in helping police clear the city centre at night.
One recent victim was Muhammad Saeed who has had plates and screws inserted into his right ankle and has been ordered by doctors to rest for two months after being attacked. The dad of two will not be paid in that time as he is self-employed.
Mr Saeed (30), who did not wish to have his face pictured, was attacked at around 12.30am on Sunday, February 3 in Bretton after he took a man and woman from Coopers pub to Watergall.
Mr Saeed recalled: “The woman jumped out and he is in the car smoking. He said ‘I’m not going to pay you any money, I never pay any taxi driver’.
“I said ‘okay I need to go, I have another job’. He said ‘I will finish my cigarette, then you can go’.
“I was late so I jumped out and opened the door and asked him politely to go. He came out trying to attack me. I grabbed him and he said ‘alright leave me, I’m sorry’.
“I turned round to my car and he came and hit me in the back then jumped on my ankle and started hitting me in the face.
“I was totally shocked. A few people came out and rang the police and ambulance service. The police took 30 minutes to 45 minutes to arrive. He had run away.
“The ambulance took me to hospital and I had plates and screws put in my right ankle.”
Ali Haider also claimed he was attacked in the early hours of Tuesday, February 5 after picking up a woman who was high on drugs.
He said: “She did not want to pay, so I was going to take her back to where I picked her up from. She pulled the handbrake up and the car spun around. Then she started calling the police and saying I was attacking her. I was nowhere near her.
“She was in the back kicking the car and kicking me.”
Mr Haider said another driver came to help but was also attacked. He added: “The police came seven or eight minutes later. When a customer rings and say they have a problem with a taxi driver the response is so quick.”
Tanvir Ali warned that more attacks could lead to taxi drivers having to return to putting screens in place to protect themselves. He also wants police to make sure they log every incident.
Peterborough city councillor Ansar Ali said: “I have had numerous victims of these crimes approach me seeking my support. I am absolutely shocked and appalled at the level of crimes against people in the taxi trade, the vast majority of whom provide an excellent service, sustaining our city’s night time economy.
“This cannot be allowed to escalate or continue. I am raising these issues with the relevant authorities.”
A police spokeswoman said: “Taxi drivers are hardworking members of the community, and our priority is to prevent crime and build trust in communities.
“We take all reports of violent crime seriously, but obviously our response times depend on numerous factors, including level of demand at the time of the call. We aim to attend all serious incidents as soon as we are able to.”
Anyone with information on the attack on Mr Saeed should call police on 101.
The association said 40 taxis have had their windows broken in just two weeks, with items stolen.
Mr Haider said: “My window has been broken four times in a year. I do not know what the police can do, but I think there should be more of a police presence. I appreciate there’s been police cuts.”
Yasir Choudhary said: “My car has been broken into two times this year. It cost me £140 and I lose a whole day to get it repaired.”
A police spokeswoman said: “Officers frequently patrol city centre locations, particularly during peak periods when taxis are in demand. However, it is unlikely vandalism will be carried out in front of officers, and we are unable to be everywhere at once.”
The drivers are also upset as they claim police treat fare-dodging as a civil matter and not a criminal one. Mr Haider added: “I consider it theft. I took a customer from the Bull Hotel to Cambridge for £50. She said ‘I’m not going to pay you, what are you going to do?’ She said ‘take me to the police station, they will do nothing’.”
A police spokesman said: “If you cannot prove that you intended to pay, then it is a criminal offence.
“If you have the money to pay but chose not to pay for the service, then it is a civil offence.”