Nineteen cameras will be installed in both private hire vehicles and taxis in Manchester to determine whether cctv deters crime and anti-social behaviour in vehicles and whether it makes both drivers and passengers feel safer.
'We want to make our city a safe place for residents and visitors. We are aware that taxi and private hire drivers are often subject to anti-social behaviour in their cabs and cars and passengers, in particular women, can often feel vulnerable. We hope that the introduction of the cameras will make both drivers and passengers feel safer. If the scheme proves to be successful then we aim to roll it out citywide.
'We have worked closely with our partners, GMP City Centre Safe, the taxi trade and private hire operators to introduce the scheme this summer. '
The cameras record images, not sound, onto a hard drive hidden in the vehicle. As passenger privacy is paramount, drivers have no access to the images which are encrypted and only the council and police can view them using special software.
Sergeant Jan Brown from GMP's City Centre Safe said: 'We are constantly working in partnership with the local authority and other organisations to find new and innovative ways of improving the safety of Manchester city
'These cameras will provide extra security for both taxi drivers and members of the public. Hopefully this will give more taxi drivers the confidence to work in the city centre at night while encouraging potentially vulnerable people such as lone women to use safe transport.
'This project builds upon the good work which has already been achieved to improve the safety of transport in Manchester at night, such as taxi marshals, bus loaders and a night bus that runs until the early hours of the morning on weekends.'
Manchester Metropolitan University will be evaluating the project by analysing questionnaires completed by drivers and passengers. The Licensing Unit has also sent out to more than 600 questionnaires to private hire and hackney carriage drivers to gauge the extent of the problems they face while working.
The pilot scheme will run until April 2005.