Uber Drivers Should Get FBI Fingerprint-based Background Checks

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?”

uber headlinesThe 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:

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.