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Profile of Chicago Cab Driver

Worked as a cab driver for 10 years

Living in the foreign country of Pakistan for most of his young life, Altaf Lakhani, otherwise known as my dad, came to America with very few career options.

It was November of 1978, when my dad decided to transition his life to a new country in hope for a better future and career opportunities.

At the age of nineteen, my dad started his first job as a taxi driver in America.

Not only is this occupation dangerous in general, it is especially hazardous for those choosing to live and work in the Chicago-land area.

In the article, “Chicago Cab Drivers Under attack, Study Says” published on In These Times, it states that, “one out of five in the Chicago area has been assaulted on the job…they are 60 times more likely to be murdered than the average citizen.”

Not speaking much English, you could imagine the difficulty a foreigner would have communicating with people in this country.

Being part of a large Muslim community in Chicago, my dad easily made friends. These friends introduced him to the taxi driving business.

“I drove for ten years…I started at 5[pm] until 2 or 3 o’ clock at night.”

Every violent incident that involved my dad occurred at night when it was dark out. My dad claims that the most dangerous areas to drive in were just west of downtown and towards the south side of Chicago.

“A couple of times I’ve been pulled over by knives and guns,” my dad says. “Once in the south side and once downtown, and I’m lucky to get out of those mess…they would take my money…one time they even took my taxi.”

My dad found his taxi a couple blocks away from where the robbers had left him, and he claims there was not much he could do about the stolen money.

“That’s okay, that’s normal, that’s a risk every taxi driver takes,” my dad says. “You always have to be prepared for this kind of stuff when you drive a taxi at night.”

Incidents, similar to those experienced by my dad, occur very frequently in Chicago. CBS Chicago online even dedicates an entire page to recent crimes where the cab driver is the victim in the situation.

Getting married, having his first child, and constantly being put in dangerous situations, all factored in on my dad’s decision to quit the taxi driving business.

“I couldn’t drive it anymore, that’s why I thought it would be better to just move on. I had my first daughter, Heena that decided me to go on and move, so I quit the taxi and moved to Atlanta…just to get out of the taxi line and do something else.”

Since the time when my dad drove taxis, many precautions have been taken in order to decrease the risk of these violent occurrences and robberies.

The Center for Problem-Oriented Policing issued an article on the web stating the problem and some equipment that have been added to taxis to avoid these serious issues such as, the shield that protects the driver from the customer and cameras that will record any incident.

Photo by: Sheena Lakhani

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The Hub Bub is a collection of articles, videos, audio, photo slideshows, interactive maps and other media produced by students enrolled in journalism courses at Loyola University Chicago's School of Communication. For more about the School of Communication, our award winning faculty, and our state of the art facilities located in the heart of Chicago, visit our website.