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Published: Friday, 5/25/2012

Taxi drivers to be extra set of eyes for Toledo police

Orange Transportation on Patrol decals will be will be placed on the side of Black & White’s 100 vehicles. Orange Transportation on Patrol decals will be will be placed on the side of Black & White’s 100 vehicles.

There soon will be more eyes watching the Toledo streets for any unusual behavior or road hazards.

A new partnership between the Toledo Police Department and Black & White Transportation -- Transportation on Patrol, or TOP -- takes taxi drivers who already are driving around the city and makes them a "mobile block watch," police Chief Derrick Diggs said Thursday afternoon at a news conference.

Police Sgt. Joe Heffernan said the program has "minimal" costs, which covers the bright-orange TOP decals that will be put on the side of Black & White's 100 vehicles.

The program is modeled after similar partnerships in Denver, Memphis, New York, and Toronto, Chief Diggs said.

"This is about trying to make the citizens of this city safer," Chief Diggs said.

Sergeant Heffernan said the program does not have anything to do with staffing levels in the police department.

"If we had 700 officers, we'd still be doing this," he said.

Scott Potter, who owns the cab company with his wife, Judy, said the partnership is the first of its kind in the state and that the drivers who work for the company logged 2 million miles in 2011.

"That's a lot of eyes and ears on the road to help," Mr. Potter said.

The cab drivers will go through "rigorous" training from Toledo police officers, which includes what to look for and where to report incidents -- including what is appropriate for 911 and what is considered a nonemergency call. Drivers will be instructed not to intervene in situations but to report issues to authorities.

At least two drivers have taken the training, which is taken voluntarily by the company's drivers, and say they're happy to help Toledo police and the city.

"It's an excellent opportunity to do something we already do," said Daniel Mullins of Toledo, who has worked for Black & White for 15 months. He added that he sees the new watchdog role as a way to "help the community at large."

Leo Sagman of Toledo, who has worked for the company for nine months, has also gone through the training. He said when he's out working he sees reckless drivers, loitering, and general disturbances that he will now report to police.

"Now we have the tools to help," he said. "... The sooner we report, the sooner [a crime] can be solved or there can be help."

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