The Los Angeles Police Department has been busy arresting hundreds of ride-hailing Uber and Lyft drivers in sting operations funded entirely by taxi companies using a 2006 law meant to target “bandit” taxis operating without licenses.
This year, the city of Los Angeles budgeted almost $850,000 for its sting operations by taxing customers a 20-cent fare hike, which is passed along to taxi customers to pay for a $30 monthly licensing fee imposed in 2006.
The Board of Taxicab Commissioners worked with cab companies to come up with the plan after the cab companies became disgruntled over losing out on fares to drivers who skirted licensing fees and city regulations.
The money from the fee is earmarked for sole purpose of funding law enforcement to crack down on bandit cabs using LAMC 71.02 MC, a statute written by legislators to target individuals posing as a taxi driver or taking cash for rides without running a meter.
In the case of Uber and Lyft drivers, LAPD targets individuals for accepting ‘street hails,’ which taxi cabs can legally accept while Uber and Lyft are supposed to accept their hails through their smart-phone app.
Although the law was meant to target bandit taxis operating in Los Angeles’ communities underserved by taxis, in recent years LAPD cops specifically target Uber and Lyft drivers in undercover sting operations.
Posing as ordinary pedestrians in need of a lift, the undercover cops will wave down cars with Uber or Lyft logos, according to the Orange County Register.
When the driver stops, the undercover claims they only have a flip phone and cannot download the app, but offer to pay cash for a ride.
If a driver accepts, LAPD cops roll up in patrol cars and arrests them on the spot.
Last July, three Uber drivers who were arrested in a sting on the job said they were victims of entrapment.
Roy Freeman, Michael Chadwick and Sid Lomeli say a woman did a number of different things to indicate she urgently needed a ride, waived vigorously and pleaded for a ride.
“I thought she needed help or something,” Chadwick recalled.
The woman identified them as Uber drivers by the “U” symbol on the windshields of their cars and asked them if she could order a ride off the app as they spoke.
Then she jumped into their cars the drivers recalled.
That’s when LAPD arrested them and impounded their cars.
Uber and Lyft operate legally in the State of Calfornia and are regulated by the California Public Utility Commission unlike so-called bandit taxis.