For all you taxi lovers out there, beware! All eyes are on you. Manchester City Council (MCC) have announced that from today, taxi drivers will be encouraged to report on their fellow citizens in a drive to make the city safer.
Mirroring recent measures requiring doctors and teachers to spy on their patients and pupils in order to combat extremism, shouldn’t more questions be raised as to how much freedom of speech we have left in the public forum?
Taxi drivers across the city will now be provided with a Safeguarding and Safety handbook, which has been produced by MCC and Greater Manchester Police in collaboration with organisations representing the city’s 6000 taxi drivers, from both Black Cab and private hire firms. The Handbook encourages drivers to ‘act as eyes and ears’, advising them on a range of safeguarding issues such as child sexual exploitation, domestic abuse, and hate crime. Drivers will also be urged to be on the lookout for suspicious packages and signs that passengers might be involved in terrorism.
According to MCC, the Safeguarding and Safety handbook provides examples of suspicious behaviour to look out for, such as a driver picking up a young person who looks drunk and gets into the car with a visibly older person who asks for them to be taken to a hotel.
All new drivers will also receive a copy of the handbook, while questions about safeguarding will go on to be included in the city council’s skills test, which all prospective new drivers must pass before receiving a taxi licence.
Councillor Nigel Murphy, Manchester City Council’s executive member for neighbourhoods, said: “We’re working closely with the police to make sure our city is as safe a place as possible, and having a well-informed team of taxi drivers.
“Thousands of drivers work across our city…occasionally see things which give them cause for concern and to let them know when to report something.”
The question now arises; do we want more vigilant members in our society? Or is this increasing devolvement of responsibilities to the public sector away from the government going to lead to a more Orwellian society, considering the increasing infringement of our privacy?
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TNT News Joanne Muigua