Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Honeytrap Hen Night; Undercover Police Hit the Town to Catch Rogue Minicabs

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Honeytrap Hen Night; Undercover Police Hit the Town to Catch Rogue Minicabs

Article excerpt

Byline: GEOFF GARVEY

TO onlookers in the West End, the seven young women seemed to be just typical partygoers out for fun and games.

Dressed in kitten heels, suits and bright purple feather boas, they looked ready to paint the town red.

They also caught the attention of admirers of a different sort - taxi touts.

Soon the illegal drivers were approaching the women, asking if they needed a cab and enquiring where they wanted to go. But under the womens' designer gear were handcuffs and radios.

For the "party girls" were, in fact, British Transport Police officers engaged in Operation Hen Night - aimed at clamping down on illegal cabbies.

They positioned themselves near Charing Cross station and were backed up by two dozen more plainclothes policewomen, along with officials from the immigration service, the Public Carriage Office and Transport for London.

The taxi touts had previously grown wise to groups of plainclothes policemen and male and female officers posing as couples, so it was decided to pretend the women officers were lively office girls out on a spree.

During the operation, 19 drivers were arrested - including one with a knife and another with a stolen credit card. Two more were held for drink driving.

A BTP spokesman said: "The touts had to believe they were approaching genuine passengers as the officers couldn't make the first move to ask for a cab.

"Arrests could only be made for touting - which was made an offence last December - if the driver made the approach and unlocked the door.

"That way they're in charge of the car, and can also be prosecuted for not being insured."

British Transport Police Inspector Nina Noddings said: "Taxi touts commit 155 sexual assaults a year and this is just one of the innovative tactics being used to target them and reduce their numbers.

"Large groups of touts gather outside mainline stations, most notably Charing Cross, Victoria and Waterloo, plying for hire. …

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