Safety on minds of cabbies after murder of driver


Posted on April 30, 2014 at 10:09 PM

Updated Thursday, May 1 at 6:10 AM

Tania Dall / Eyewitness News
Email: | Twitter: @taniadall

GRETNA, La. -- Three teens are in custody in connection with the murder of a West Bank cab driver.

Before the deadly shooting, officials were already looking at ways to improve cab driver safety in Jefferson Parish.

"He was the type of person who didn't just pick up anybody. He was real, real cautious about that," said Glenn Green, owner of Glenn's Cab Company.

Caution and knowing the lay of the land wasn't enough to keep Blake Helmer alive. The 55-year-old cab driver was gunned down while picking up three passengers in a Gretna neighborhood Tuesday night.

"Just take the money. Why do you have to harm anyone? It's a stain on your soul," said Nawlins Cab driver Gary Rogers.

Rogers started driving cabs almost four decades ago while enrolled at UNO to make extra cash.

Now retired from the Fire Department, he's still behind the wheel but avoids making the rounds after dark. The 76-year-old New Orleans native knows driving a cab comes with risks.

"We are obligated to ride everyone, but I do not think we're obligated to ride someone that would pose a danger," said Rogers.

"The killing of a taxi cab driver may be a first-degree murder offense in the state of Louisiana punishable by death," said Sheree Kerner, reading signage now required in New Orleans cabs.

The Nawlins Cab owner lost her brother Billy to gun violence. He was a cab driver who was violently shot and killed on the job.

Kerner continues to push for laws to help protect drivers. Recently she reached out to Jefferson Parish Officials hoping to pass an ordinance requiring similar signs in the back of taxi cabs and other safety requirements.

"It just seemed to me, we got 10 minutes of somebody sitting in the back seat that can have one pause for thought before he pulls the trigger," said Kerner.

The Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office confirms it's also looking into technology that would sink driver's panic buttons directly with its 911 Dispatch Center.

Kerner said that is another mechanism to get driver distress calls to law enforcement agencies in a timely manner.

"We don't have much money. We have credit card machines. We have cameras in cars," said Rogers, who added he is happy with the outcome of taxi cab improvements mandated by the city of New Orleans.

The veteran cabbie says it means less cash on-hand, and in many cases such safety enhancements can mean the difference between life and death.