Dawson Creek police have issued a public pitch for information as they investigate a number of allegations of sexual assault and forced confinement involving women taking taxis.
The local RCMP detachment said they identified three female victims after it was reported last week that a 13-year-old was confined and sexually assaulted by a cab driver. The girl was allegedly lured into the cab with the promise of a free ride home.
Police said they have a 55-year-old male in custody and are investigating a second suspect.
Sergeant Milo MacDonald, detachment commander, said the investigation is well under way but realizes this will be a difficult time for local residents.
“I think these types of incident occur and it is hard on people’s sense of trust and sense of community,” Sgt. MacDonald said.
Dawson Creek RCMP are investigating with help from officers across the region and in Alberta.
Of the two taxi companies in the community, the investigation is limited to Golden Cabs. Police said the first known incident occurred in October, 2011. Golden Cabs has been operating in the city for about a year and works out of Alberta as well.
The mayor of Dawson Creek, population 13,000, said he is concerned about the public trust of taxi drivers in the city.
“You look at your taxi drivers as a group of people that you want to be able to trust your children and your loved ones with,” Mayor Mike Bernier said. “This is obviously quite disturbing and we need to follow up on this.”
Mr. Bernier said his office is looking to the Passenger Transportation Board to see if it can suspend the taxi licence of the arrested driver.
Taxi drivers in Dawson Creek are required to have a criminal record check with RCMP approval, Mr. Bernier said. That bylaw was challenged a couple years ago, but upheld by city council due to public safety concerns, the mayor said.
“I’m still kind of in shock getting this news because we’ve worked really hard to try to make sure that we have adequate taxi service in our community,” he said. “But that shouldn’t come at a price of risking the safety of individuals.”
Golden Cabs was approved to operate 12 cabs in Dawson Creek in January of last year. Police said the cab company has been co-operative with the investigation. The company owner could not be reached for comment.