Recently, there have been numerous stories of Uber drivers, who passed the company’s background check, harming passengers.
Earlier this year, an Uber driver Duncan Burton, 57, was arrested and charged with sexual assault in Houston. According to court documents, Burton performed sexual acts on the woman who he knew was unconscious and unaware and could not provide consent.
A Houston city official said that Burton would not have been eligible for a city-issued permit to drive for Uber, a city official said Tuesday, because he had left prison less than three years earlier after serving 14 years on a felony drug charge. Houston requires FBI fingerprint background checks to screen drivers.
On April 27, 2015, in Virginia Beach, Uber driver Isagani Marin, who had a previous criminal record before signing up for the rideshare company, pleaded guilty to assault and battery of a 13-year old girl. The driver would ask the girl provocative questions such as “can I buy you panties for your birthday?”
The most recent incident occurred on July 25th in Dallas. 56-year-old, Uber driver Talal Ali Chammout picked up a woman and drove her to her home near Fort Worth Avenue and Hampton Road, Dallas police said. He is accused of raping her there after following her inside.
Chammout, a felon who had previous assault and weapons charges, had a driver’s license registered with Uber but was not listed with the city of Dallas.
“He didn’t go through our system to get vetted,” city spokesperson Sana Syed said. “We have no record of him applying to be a driver. He’s not in our system, period.”
Ride-booking drivers must pass background checks that include county, federal and multistate records. Even if Chammout did apply for a permit to operate in Dallas, it seems unlikely he would have met the city’s requirements.
These cases are some of the most egregious examples of passengers being placed in danger by Uber drives, but the list goes on:
- Syed Muzzafar had a prior conviction for reckless driving, but he cleared the Uber background check and was behind the wheel New Year’s Eve when he was arrested for hitting and killing a 6-year-old girl in San Francisco.
- Tadeusz Szczechowicz drove the streets of Chicago for a year, despite five prior arrests and two convictions for burglary and disorderly conduct.
- Jigneshkumar Patel was arrested for battery of a The UberX driver had a 2012 conviction for DUI.
Uber’s background checks simply aren’t thorough enough to protect the general public. That’s why many cities in the U.S. require FBI fingerprint checks.
“No commercial background check will ever be as thorough as a background check run by a governmental entity through the FBI database,” said Lara Cottingham, deputy assistant director to the City of Houston’s Administration and Regulatory Affairs Department.
Case in point: one applicant who cleared Uber’s background checks had 24 alias names, five listed birth dates, 10 listed Social Security numbers and an active warrant for arrest, according to a report released last week by Houston’s Administration and Regulatory Affairs Department.
It’s easy for someone to lie about his name, Social Security number, or where he’s lived, but fingerprints are tied to each individual.
If you’re tired of reading headlines about Uber drivers committing crimes while on our city streets, contact your local officials and encourage them to require all transportation network companies to implement FBI fingerprint-based background checks to screen their drivers. Your safety depends on it.
- “Uber driver accused of rape did not have city permit” – Houston Chronicle, April 6, 2015
- “Uber’s background checks don’t catch criminals, says Houston” – CNet.com, April 17, 2015
- “Uber Driver Accused of Rape Had Criminal Record, Used Phony Permit” – WebProNews, August 4, 2015
- “Dallas, Uber disagree on whether driver accused of rape was licensed to drive” – The Dallas Morning News, August 1, 2015
- “Chicago Tribune finds another “background checked” Uber driver with a felony record” – Pando.com, 02/14/2014
- “Ride Service May Pose Risk to Passengers” – NBC Chicago, April 25, 2014
- “Uber sued for millions after driver assaulted VB girl” – ABC 13NewsNow.com, June 18, 2015
- “Uber denies fault in S.F. crash that killed girl” – SFGate.com, 05/07/2014
- “Gaps in some ride-sharing firms’ background checks” – Chicago Tribute, 08/07/2015
For TNCs (transportation network companies) like Uber and Lyft, the lack of ADA accessible rides for disabled citizens is a prime example of corporate greed at its worst. Their success depends on avoiding the added costs of complying with the same city and state regulations that taxi, limousine and para-transit companies have been operating under for years.
Here are the facts:
- Municipalities have mandated minimums for vehicle-for-hire companies that MUST be compliant with wheelchair/ADA accessibility standards.
- In most Texas cities this rate is set at a percentage of all fleet vehicles.
- Recently, the city of Austin established a 6.5% accessibility minimum standard.
- Ride-share companies have continued to refuse to abide by municipal and ADA standards, despite repeated lawsuits from disability advocates.
- Uber specifically claimed that the rules shouldn’t apply to them and said “the cost of compliance” would be “extraordinary.”
For international companies worth billions, providing basic needs for a community shouldn’t be an “extraordinary” expense. Local taxi, limousine and para-transit companies are and have been committed to accessibility for years, so please don’t get left at the curb.
Although many professions – teachers, plumbers, electricians, architects, bus drivers and taxi drivers – require it in order to establish a person’s identity, Ride-Sharing company Uber refuses to fingerprint drivers.
“You’d have to be crazy to employ people who haven’t been fingerprinted because you’d only be one disaster away from being sued,” said Georgia State Rep. Allan Powell.
Without a fingerprint check, there is no guarantee that an Uber driver is who he says he is and there is no way to accurately know if he has a criminal history.
In case after case throughout the U.S. – Houston, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, San Francisco, Washington, DC – passengers are reporting alleged attacks by Uber drivers. Many of the alleged victims are women.
When a woman reported being allegedly raped by an Uber driver in Houston, it turned out he’d served 14 years in federal prison. When the City of Houston checked Uber drivers’ backgrounds, they turned up numerous violations that should have prevented them from passing a thorough background check:
The charges include indecent exposure, DWI, possession of a controlled substance, prostitution, fraud, battery, assault, robbery, aggravated robbery, possession of marijuana, theft, sale of alcohol to a minor, traffic of counterfeit goods, trademark counterfeit, possession of narcotics, and driving with a suspended license.
San Francisco DA George Gascon has called Uber’s background check “completely worthless” because it fails to fingerprint drivers. He is suing the company for misleading the public.
According to a recent study from the University Transportation Research Center, Uber and Lyft’s background checks are 43 times less effective than fingerprint-based background checks required by all major Texas cities. The fingerprint-based standard is a requirement that taxi, limousine, and para-transit companies have followed for decades.