This specialized unit is made up of TLC officers who conduct investigations on such things as illegal street hails, unlicensed activity, and licensed drivers who flee from TLC officers when stopped. The unit aids law-enforcement agencies with investigations involving TLC licensees, and also does comprehensive base inspections.
The officers in the unit have boosted their investigative skills by training at the NYPD Detective School, as well as the NYPD Auto Crimes School. This training, as well as the expansion of the unit, has helped officers turn around requests from sister law-enforcement agencies much more quickly, and be more focused in the information they provide.
“We help everyone, from the NYPD to FBI to District Attorneys to the Port Authority,” said Officer Zbigniew Fimiarz.
The unit is also expanding awareness of the work that TLC officers do, and visiting every precinct in New York City so that investigators can support each other’s efforts, as well as conduct more joint operations. “We help with robberies, grand larcenies, and homicides,” said Officer Robert Sajeva.
When they visit a precinct, officers visit with its stakeholders, such as neighborhood coordination officers and traffic sergeants. “We are professional law-enforcement with a niche focus," said Chief Louis Molina. "We are the pros when there is a nexus with for-hire vehicles and taxis.”
Officer Walter Colon said other law-enforcement agencies appreciate having access to the wealth of information the TLC has about its licensees, such as GPS-based trip data. “Detectives are particularly appreciative,” he said.
The training that officers have received allows them to gather richer information when they respond to the scene of a crash involving a TLC-licensed vehicle, and facilitates more comprehensive investigations when the TLC receives a 311 complaint about unlicensed or illegal activity. Officers have done significant investigative work, for instance, targeting illegal limousines at Pier 36 on the Lower East Side.
“A lot of people don’t know the dangers of unlicensed vehicles," said Colon. “So this training has helped us to bridge that knowledge gap between the community and the TLC. It also enables us to bring back a deeper level of information for our enforcement squads to work with.”
Investigative officers have also been able to arrest drivers who flee from TLC enforcement. “We get to help the squads,” said Officer Felicia Harper. “It’s a safety issue.”
Base inspections have significantly expanded as well this year. The unit is conducting more base inspections in 2017 in response to recently-gathered intelligence on bases that are suspected of dispatching drivers with suspended licenses, unlicensed vehicles, as well as drivers that pick-up illegal street hails.
“We have helped them to better understand the rules and laws they must follow, so they can more effectively manage their drivers’ behavior,” said Molina.
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