FEAR OF CRIME. That was the reason that a Carroll taxi service gave to explain its refusal to send cabs into certain neighborhoods of Westminster. Any objective review of the city's crime statistics, however, reveals that such fears are not based on reality.
Last year, Westminster had 12 armed robberies. They occurred, incidentally, in neighborhoods that Carroll County Cab has no qualms serving. The robbers primarily targeted convenience stores on busy thoroughfares such as Route 140, Sullivan Road and East Main Street. So far this year there have been three armed robberies. Westminster police can recall only one instance where a cabbie operating in Westminster was held up.
What is the extent of crime that Carroll Cab and its drivers have endured in the past two years? Two bent radio antennas, according to police records.
The operators of Carroll County Cab, Bob and Margaret Bell, also have a number of other misconceptions about the nature of the county's crime. They believe that outsiders -- from Baltimore, Randallstown and Woodlawn -- commit it. In truth, most of Carroll's criminals are home-grown, as any examination of court dockets will reveal.
Based on these misunderstandings of the county's crime problems, the Bells decided they would not "go looking for trouble" and would avoid serving certain neighborhoods in the county seat. The communities all have one thing in common: They are home to predominantly lower-income residents, including some African-Americans.
It would be easy to accuse the Bells of discriminating on the basis of race. In reality, their taxi service refused to pick up whites as well as blacks just because they happened to live in these "dangerous" neighborhoods.
Having a license to operate a taxi service means that company is obligated to serve everyone regardless of income, color or place of residence. Carroll County Cab failed to honor that obligation. The cab company turned in its permit before Westminster city officials could remove it from them. As long as the company continues to discriminate against certain neighborhoods, city officials should refuse to reinstate the permit.