Crime code for cabbies

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Queenstown taxis have secret codes to radio for help if threatened by passengers.

Speaking after last weekend’s fatal stabbing of a Christchurch cabbie, Queenstown Taxis boss Dave Wright says: “We call it a 99 call.”

Rival cab firms have similar schemes, he says.

A driver just says “99” over the radio and emergency procedures cut in. Other drivers switch channels so the perpetrator can’t hear radio talk and close-by cabbies race to the rescue as the dispatcher calls police.

In 15 years, Wright can’t recall a 99 call – although there’s been “the odd scuffle, the odd incident”.

A few years ago a cabbie had money stolen and about a decade ago a passenger commandeered a taxi to drive out of town – the driver called police and the thief didn’t get far.

No thought’s been given to protective screens, Wright says. “If we had to do that, it’d be the last time I’d drive a taxi.”