From the Washington Post: Dulles limo drivers who illegally solicit fares face undercover crackdown.
Unnoticed by most travelers, a little war plays out daily in the arrivals area at Dulles, home to more than 23 million passengers a year.
On one front, the “hustlers”: limo drivers who pretend to pick up passengers who supposedly had made reservations but are discreetly soliciting fares from fliers on the spot, without authorization.
On the other front, the undercovers: a squad of Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority police officers who pose as passengers wearing three-piece suits, toting luggage and speaking foreign languages.
Ahh, its the dreaded “soliciting fares without authorization.” You know that’s what Casey Anthony did to her daughter, right?
Here’s what I can’t figure out: why is this illegal? The closest the article comes to explaining that is in this paragraph:
Police say they want to protect passengers from getting ripped off or riding with limo drivers who aren’t properly insured. They also aim to block illegal competition that could hurt two groups: the large number of limo drivers with prearranged reservations to pick up passengers (which is legal); and the Washington Flyer taxi service, a collection of three independent cab companies that holds the airport’s contract to collect travelers.
I guess #1 seems reasonable, except I’m not sure how prohibiting something helps make things more legitimate. Y’know. Drugs and everything. And wouldn’t it be better to just prohibit ripping people off or uninsured drivers?
But #2 is just absurd. Throwing the word “illegal” in front of something is a cop out. Why are we prohibiting competition? Don’t we government agencies specifically designed to prevent restraints on competition? So we’re protecting limo drivers and cab companies at the expense of…
Most hustlers are immigrants who say they’re just trying to piece together a decent existence. Many times, they have a reserved pickup and don’t need to solicit. But they still skirt the law, even if it means risking their livelihoods and facing the opprobrium of fellow immigrants who play by the book.
Damn immigrants. Don’t even know the American way: you have to be “authorized” to make a living. But hey, two points for “opprobrium.”
And this is one sad, sorry man:
Officer Hehr, 58, a former Arlington County fire captain, talks of his work with the elan of a lawman describing a drug sting or other bad-guy takedown.
“Oh, God, we had a good day in May. Two undercovers got solicited. We caught six total. I witnessed one of them from my cruiser outside — I had my binoculars going,” Hehr said. “I saw one of my undercovers coming out with a solicitor. I watched the car doors open. Then my undercover calls my cell and says, ‘It’s me. Come get him.’ ”
At least this story has a happy ending:
Mohammad Shahid, 48, of Fauquier County said he has been banned from Reagan National for hustling — but he still takes his chances at Dulles, where he solicited a Washington Post reporter.
Drivers sometimes contest their bans in emotional appeals hearings at the airport. “Operators will come in with pictures of their kids and family,” said Chris Browne, the airport manager, who adjudicates the hearings.
Maybe I’m misreading the article and there’s some hidden danger here. Or I skipped over the part where some unauthorized limo driver murdered all his fares and plunged his town car into the Potomac. But this just seems really mean. I mean, we have somebody (Republicans? Democrats? Does it even matter?) screwing immigrants explicitly to protect corporations, cops gleefully recounting their “busts,” undercovers dressed up in suits in the baggage claim area of an airport not looking for terrorists, but for limo drivers, and an entire article about ruining the lives of immigrants without the slightest clue as to how anybody is protected because of all this. Maybe there’s a really good reason for all this, but you would think that would slip its way into what is otherwise a pretty depressing article.