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Police look for driver who picked off, robbed woman using online car service

As a neighborhood of early adopters, Capitol Hill’s crime also occasionally emerges from the bleeding edge. A robbery reported early Sunday morning involved a Capitol Hill woman and her boyfriend who were apparently sneakily picked up by a competing car service after she booked a ride through the popular Uber online service.

According to the report on the incident, police were called to the E Madison 7-11 Sunday around 1:30 AM after a woman said a driver had left the scene after stealing her phone. According to the woman, she and her boyfriend used Uber to book a ride from a Belltown bar. The online service handles the billing so the woman said she was surprised the driver suddenly demanded $40 from her as he drove her home along E Madison after dropping her boyfriend off at his residence. The woman told police she demanded to be let out of the vehicle immediately.

As the vehicle stopped, the woman said she quickly got out and started walking along E Madison. She said the driver got out and caught up with her, pushing her against the wall of the 7-11 and grabbing her cell phone from her hand. “If you don’t pay me $40, I’m going to take your phone,” the woman told police the driver said. She refused and the driver fled the scene with her phone.

The woman told police she only knew part of the SUV’s license plate. In a check of the area for the driver, police say they found an Uber driver nearby who filled them in on some details about the service:

Screen shot 2013-04-29 at 11.41.19 AM

Uber tells us the driver was not working with their service. “The police have not contacted us,” a rep said. “After reviewing the police report that you sent us, we can say that the incident in question was not coordinated through the Uber system.”

If you’re looking to protect yourself from a similar incident, just make sure the license plate of the vehicle that arrives to pick you up matches the number confirmed via Uber or whatever car system you’re putting to use. Hijacking another driver’s fare is as old as the original taxi business.

In other recent criminal activity involving the new era of transportation technology, the Capitol Hill driver of a Car2Go arrested after a bicyclist was struck at Bellevue and E Olive St. has yet to be charged in the case. The case remains pending as the City Attorney’s office weighs possible charges. In that investigation, police also reported difficulties in initial efforts to contact the company.

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8 thoughts on “Police look for driver who picked off, robbed woman using online car service

  1. I wish there was more information about how competing drivers hijack Uber fares. I suspect it’s as simple as cruising busy areas, waiting for someone to walk towards the towncar because they assume it’s the one they’re waiting for. Many (but not all) Uber drivers will confirm my name when they pick me up. I make it a point to confirm theirs, as well as the license plate.

  2. I wish the city would be more proactive about regulating these services, they are getting a little out of hand. I guess we’re going to have to wait until someone is actually murdered before these services get the regulation that legitimate cab services already have.

  3. From a repeated experience of someone very close to me, it’s a superb value based on excellent quality of service.

    Uber provides a far more safe (including but not limited to talking on cell-phone while driving, right up front identification of a driver, car, license plate, and driver’s name and rating, their drivers not dealing with any fares/charges = less risk for crime, etc…), service oriented, and reliable service than any local taxi company.

    Don’t downgrade Uber to the “taxi” level. From actual, repeated experience, this is an outstanding business providing much more value than any Yellow, Orange, or whatever collor or name car company. The INTENT BEHIND you calling Uber an “unmarked vehicles to operate as taxicabs” proves your ignorance on the subject.

    As usual and in all other aspects of our lives: our common sense is a part of an abstract called “personal safety”.