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14 Arrested in Sting Targeting Bandit Cabdrivers : Taxis: The number of unlicensed drivers operating in the area has increased after a crackdown in Los Angeles.


HUNTINGTON PARK — Police arrested 14 suspected bandit cabdrivers in a sting operation last weekend as part of an ongoing effort to fight the illegal business.

Most of the drivers were flagged down July 17 by undercover officers posing as riders between 7 p.m. and 2 a.m. along Pacific Boulevard and Florence Avenue, said police Sgt. Desmond Fitzgerald, traffic supervisor.

Police impounded the cars and arrested the drivers on suspicion of operating cabs without proper licenses and other violations. Four of those arrested had no driver's licenses, two had suspended licenses and two others had outstanding traffic warrants, Fitzgerald said.

Police, who recruited reserve officers and used personnel from other details in the operation, were surprised at the number of arrests.

"I had anticipated we would arrest maybe five or six," Fitzgerald said.

The number of unlicensed cabdrivers operating in Huntington Park and several other Southeast cities has increased over the last two years, primarily because of a crackdown in Los Angeles, where police have arrested more than 700 bandit drivers.

The bandit drivers, most of whom speak Spanish, have shifted to outlying areas such as Huntington Park, which has a large Latino population and a crowded central business district, authorities said. Several dozen of the cabs can be found operating in the city on any given day. Police are uncertain of the precise number.

Police said Day & Nite Yellow Cab in South Gate is the only company licensed to operate taxis in Huntington Park.

Legitimate cabbies complain that the bandits are cutting into their livelihood. The bandits also tarnish the image of cabdrivers because they overcharge customers and occasionally become abusive, Day & Nite drivers said.

In the past three months, confrontations between bandit and licensed cabdrivers have resulted in five assaults, two of which involved guns, Fitzgerald said.

The bandits rely on illegal dispatching services or use scanners to get radio calls from their legitimate competitors.

Times staff writer Duke Helfand contributed to this story.

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