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Southampton amends taxi law to require drivers’ fingerprints

Southampton Town Hall on July 14, 2012.

Southampton Town Hall on July 14, 2012. Credit: Ian J. Stark

Effective Jan. 1, all taxi and vehicle-for-hire drivers applying for taxi licenses in Southampton will have to be fingerprinted by the police department.

The amendment to the local taxi law was passed 4-1 Tuesday after a public hearing on the measure at a town board meeting.

Councilman Stan Glinka expressed concerns about passenger safety, noting that some vehicle-for-hire applicants for town licenses had drunken driving and theft offenses in their backgrounds despite being fingerprinted by Suffolk County.

The possibility of the app-based ride-hailing company Uber extending its policy to allow drivers convicted of certain nonviolent offenses, such as check fraud and resisting arrest, to operate in New York could also present problems, Glinka said. The Uber policy is in effect in California, Rhode Island and Connecticut.

An Uber representative could not immediately be reached Tuesday for comment.

Glinka said he wanted to make sure town officials are doing everything they can to do a thorough investigation of any taxi license applicants to make sure they can meet Southampton’s “standards and codes” and so nothing in their background can “fall through the cracks.”

Current applicants with vehicle-for-hire licenses do not have to undergo additional fingerprinting through the town.

During the public hearing, Bryan DaParma, owner of Hometown Taxi in Southampton, said he found no reason to subject drivers to additional fingerprinting if Suffolk determined an applicant’s criminal history has been properly vetted.

Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman was the lone vote against the measure. He said he had concerns that the new law was being “rushed” when there should be efforts to determine whether the county and the town could consolidate the fingerprinting process so drivers would not have to undergo it twice.

Glinka said he didn’t want to wait to ensure the public’s safety and that he would try to meet with the county to consider an alternative approach.

Assistant Town Attorney Carl Benincasa said another problem has been that only the entity actually doing the fingerprinting is entitled to immediately receive notifications about any new arrests of drivers.

Benincasa said that under the current system, the town has to rely on the county to forward such information, which sometimes does not happen until days later, if at all.

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