Monday, December 17, 2012
SAN DIEGO Savitar Sahou’s life changed forever at 2:20 a.m. on September 29, 2011. There was a knock on the door in the middle of the night. San Diego police officers were standing on the other side. Savitar knew they were waiting to tell her something she didn’t want to hear.
“I was home, my mom was home, the only person who wasn’t home was my dad,” she said. “Immediately I knew something had happened. But to think that someone had murdered my dad? No.”
Savitar’s dad was 68-year-old Mir Sadat Sahou. He’d been a taxi driver in San Diego for nearly 20 years. Hours before that knock on the door, Sahou had been shot and killed during a robbery in his cab in La Jolla. Bullets took the life of a man who’d studied at the Sorbonne in Paris, served as the chair of Afghanistan’s Federal Reserve and whose first cab in America bore the name of his youngest child, Savitar.
Understandably, Savitar said the past year has been horrible for her family. She can’t sleep and cried for months on end. But now she’s channeling anger and grief into a cause, protecting cab drivers. And she’s focusing her efforts on legislation that would require taxis to have video cameras installed.
"You know, there’s so many questions left unanswered. And that is what really pushed me towards advocating for cameras,” she said. “Because, number one, we want safety out there for drivers. And, number two, God forbid, if anything ever happens, we want to make sure that the families and the public know what happened, at least to some extent.”
Chances are good a taxi driver will have a dangerous encounter at some point. The U.S. Department of Labor says taxi drivers are 60 times more likely than other workers to be murdered on the job.
San Diego City Councilwoman Marti Emerald knows it’s a risky job. Emerald served on the Metropolitan Transit Systems’ Taxi Advisory board. She was waiting for state legislation requiring cameras in cabs to go forward, but that appears to be stalled. So Emerald said she and MTS will move on the local level.
“My primary goal, and I know the goal of our taxi advisory committee, is to protect drivers,” she said. “They are out there, they are vulnerable. I would imagine they are unarmed. And they wind up becoming prey to people who would rob them, beat them, kill them.”
Emerald says there are issues to be worked out. For instance, would the cameras record audio as well as video? Drivers in Los Angeles and San Francisco opposed the state legislation because they were afraid cameras would be used to monitor drivers' performance and not just for safety reasons. Locally, taxi owners say they support putting cameras in taxis; they’re just waiting for some rules to be written before they begin installations. The United Taxi Workers of San Diego, which represents drivers, also supports cameras in cabs.
San Diego taxi driver Adulhamid Somo said something needs to be done to make his job safer. He’s been robbed at least three times, including a robbery that left him with a stab wound in his hand.
“I fight with him. He hit me by knife here, in the hand. Then he run away. I follow him. Then the officer come and they capture him,” he said.
But Somo still bears the scar from that run-in. And in a job that requires him and other drivers to interact with strangers on a daily basis, he’s hoping something can be done to make him a little safer. Savitar Sahou said she’ll keep working to make sure that happens.
“I don’t want any daughter out there to ever wake up to a phone call or a knock on the door from the police saying, so sorry, your dad is no longer alive. We don’t want that to happen,” Sahou said.