'Operation Skynet' nails illegal taxi drivers

The city's traffic authority is launching a series of operations to clamp down on illegal taxis in the city, as well as the criminal networks behind them.

The law enforcement department of Shanghai Transport Commission is working with other authorities to launch a series of operations to clamp down on illegal taxis in the city, as well as the criminal networks behind them.

On the morning of March 28, the city’s traffic authority and police officers went down to a neighborhood on Xiuze Road in Qingpu District to take down an illegal taxi driver who was first complained about by a passenger in November 2016. 

The driver, surnamed Zhao, has been complained about five times in the past two years for cherry picking and taking detours, but managed to elude inspection.

With the help of big data technology, the police soon discovered Zhao’s daily pattern and where he lives.

The officers had been staking out the area for two days. An illegal taxi with the plate FM5296 had a beacon for the Jinjiang taxi firm, but Jinjiang said the plate belonged to a taxi that should have been scrapped long ago.

Zhao admitted he bought the taxi from the black market, and that he also purchased a device which makes taxi rides more expensive, as well as fake invoices. He is under further investigation and will face a 50,000 yuan (US$7,952) fine as well as 10 days' detention. His driver’s licence will be seized as well.

The night before Zhao was arrested, authorities launched a citywide operation called “Tianwang” (Skynet), targeting unlawful passenger transport. Officers nailed 62 cases, 16 of which related to illegal taxis.

An officer with the authority said drivers often acted suspiciously when they had a guilty conscience. “A car tried to dodge our inspection,” the officer said. “He made three turns around Hongqiao Tiandi before we caught him at a traffic light.”

In order to further weed out illegal taxis and those who aid them, the traffic authority and city police have established a database to collate complaint information from passengers and law enforcement records. 

This will enable officers on patrol to quickly verify a suspicious car by utilizing the database when it comes into sight.

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