Cab Driver Assaulted, Robbed by La Jolla Fare

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Another Yellow Cab driver was assaulted and robbed by a man he picked up as a fare early Monday, police said.

The attack is the latest in a series of crimes against cab drivers this summer. In July, the problem led Mayor Maureen O'Connor and San Diego police officers to meet with a group of the drivers after two cabbies were robbed and shot.

In the most recent incident, driver Ralph Kirn, 48, was attacked by a man who accosted him near the Hyatt Hotel in La Jolla shortly before 2 a.m., according to police reports.

Kirn drove the man, who he picked up at the hotel, to the 3700 block of La Jolla Village Drive, said police spokesman Bill Robinson.

"Then the passenger grabbed Kirn by the hair and demanded his money," Robinson said. "He said he had a gun, but one was never seen."

After a brief scuffle, the attacker got control of the cab and drove away, leaving Kirn behind, Robinson said.

The cab--less $140 from Kirn's fares--was recovered in the 3200 block of Holiday Court, Robinson said.

On July 13, Yellow Cab driver William Joseph Tufford was shot after struggling with an attacker during a robbery attempt. The next day, Yellow Cab driver Leonard Brumlow was shot and killed during an apparent robbery attempt.

Police arrested Lester McGibbon, 33, in connection with Tufford's shooting, but McGibbon was not a suspect in Brumlow's slaying.

The shootings prompted O'Connor to meet with a group of Yellow Cab drivers, then to ride with one driver through some of San Diego's toughest neighborhoods.

Then the mayor and police invited representatives from all the city's cab companies to a meeting July 25 to discuss ways to make cab driving a safer profession.

A spokesman for the mayor's office said Monday that efforts to implement some of the ideas suggested at that meeting are continuing.

Police are already making a concerted effort to keep closer tabs on cab drivers they see working in high-crime areas, said Paul Downey, the mayor's press secretary.

Staff members in the city manager's office are working on a program that would allow drivers to secretly signal police from their cabs if a customer gave them trouble, Downey said.

"If those ways are known, then criminals would also know when the cabbies are trying to signal police," Downey said.

City staff members are also trying to devise a direct communication link between the cabs and police dispatchers, Downey said.

At the July 25 meeting, police crime prevention officer John Graham noted that only about half as many cabbies have been robbed this year as during the same period last year.

But Downey said the problem is still one that seems to be worsening in one respect.

"There's more violence--let's put it that way," Downey said. "We've had several drivers being shot and one driver was killed. It's very disturbing to see the number of shootings--the robberies are bad enough."

Officials for the Yellow Cab Co. could not be reached for comment Monday.

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