In wake of 2 assaults, police in Boston and Cambridge urge caution when hailing a taxi

After two women were sexually assaulted this month when they got rides in vehicles that appeared to be either a livery car or a taxi, Boston and Cambridge police are urging the public to take precautions this weekend.

“If someone pulls up and offers a ride, and they don’t have a medallion or an actual fixed logo, don’t get into the car,” said Cambridge police spokesman Dan Riviello.

Police are being “extra vigilant” in trying to protect residents from the dangers of unlicensed taxis, Riviello said.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Boston police have increased patrols in the areas of the crimes and have pushed to get safety information to the public through social media, said Boston police spokeswoman Officer Katherine Shea.

Every licensed taxi in Boston, Cambridge, and Brookline should have a rectangular metal medallion on the rear of the car. Inside should be a picture of the driver with identifying information, Riviello said.

“We’re trying to make people aware of what’s happened,” he said. “There are some dangers out there.”

In one incident, on Aug. 6, a woman hailed a cab in the Seaport District and was taken to an isolated area in Newton where she was raped. After a short struggle, she was thrown from the car.

In the other incident, at around 2 a.m. Sunday, a woman in Allston was picked up by a man driving a dark, mid-sized sedan after she was unsuccessful in hailing a taxi. She asked him to drive her to Cambridge, but instead he drove to another Boston neighborhood where he sexually assaulted the woman, police said.

People should call taxi cabs to pick them up rather than hail one from their location. Once the cab arrives, they should check for the medallion and photo of the driver inside, Riviello said.

Both departments released safety tips, advising people, among other things, to avoid traveling alone at night and to not assume “it will never happen to me.”

Shea said many people may think they are making the right choice by taking a cab when intoxicated or alone, but they need to make sure the vehicle is licensed and safe.

If someone feels like they are being approached by a suspicious vehicle or are inside of one, they should call 911.

“Let us come investigate,” Riviello said. “We want to keep everyone safe.”

Lyft, a company that offers an app that people can use to arrange rides, is not concerned that its business will be affected by the police warnings, said spokeswoman Erin Simpson.

The company puts drivers through strict background checks, she said.

“Lyft’s background checks are more strict than those required for taxis and limos and screen out individuals with any violent crime, sexual offense or risky driving record,” the company said in a statement.

Lyft also said it was not concerned because a growing number of people are using the service.