More than 50 females have been raped and robbed over the last two years by men posing as taxi operators, and the police are urging women and girls to be extremely cautious while taking public transportation.
According Superintendent Charmine Shand, head of the Centre for Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA), all the women reported being blindfolded and raped before being taken to an ATM to withdraw money for their attackers, who then drop them off at strange locations.
"We honestly believe that there is a group of men out there who are working together. It is the same modus operandi. It is the same thing that they do," said Shand.
There were 27 such cases reported in 2016 and another 16 in 2017. Since the start of this year, CISOCA has received at least nine reports fitting the same pattern. Five of these rapes took place in St Catherine South, which covers Portmore, two were in the Corporate Area and another two in St James.
Shand said in most of the cases, the fake taxi operators worked with other criminals posing as passengers. She said cars with red licence plates indicating that they are public passenger vehicles, and some with private plates have been used by the men, who are believed to be serial rapists.
The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) last week released a sketch of one of these illegal taxi operators, who is wanted for abduction and rape in St James. He is said to frequent the Coral Gardens, Ironshore and Providence routes and is generally accompanied by either a male or a female.
Shand noted that the abductions take place both at night and day and the victims' phones are always confiscated. Most of the victims are between the ages of 14 and 24.
Several rape suspects, including two serial rapists, have been arrested in recent times.
In one arrest in the Portmore area, the suspect is scheduled to appear on 15 identification parades based on the consistency in the details of victims' reports. In other cases in St Ann and St Mary, one person was arrested and charged with eight counts of sexual offences after he was pointed out on identification parades.
Shand said that CISOCA intends to launch a public-education campaign in the coming weeks because of the frequency of the cases. She has urged members of the public, particularly females, to take precaution when using taxis.
Tips For Women
1. Travel with company as far as it is practicable and keep a close family member or friend up to date on your movements.
2. Before boarding any taxi, or as soon as possible after, take a moment to note the registration number and share it with family or friends. Take photographs of the car and pass it on, if possible.
3. Communicate your point and time of boarding and intended place of disembarking to family members or a close friend.
4. If left alone in a taxi with a driver, notify a family member or a friend immediately.
5. Scream to attract attention if there are any unwelcome sexual advances or attempt at abduction.
6. Remember, you have the option of other means of transport.
7. Download the Stay Alert App and keep handy the number for police emergency and Crime Stop.
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