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City Hall's Favorite Tool in Uber Crackdown: Undercover Vice Stings by Dallas Cops

Dallas vice officers in the simpler, pre-Uber days of 2010, when they could focus on catching johns.
Dallas vice officers in the simpler, pre-Uber days of 2010, when they could focus on catching johns.
Andrea Grimes

On any given day, the Dallas Police Department's vice control unit is combing the city's streets in search of prostitutes and johns, illegal gambling parlors and people having sex in parks, restrooms, and bars. Recently, they've shifted their focus to a less traditional target: drivers for Uber.

See also: Dallas Swears It's Not Trying to Crush Uber, Just Regulate it into an Unrecognizable Form

The city manager's office said on Friday that it issued 61 tickets to drivers for illegally operating a transportation-for-hire service during a recent crackdown on the company. On Monday, Councilman Scott Griggs suggested, and Mayor Mike Rawlings confirmed to The Dallas Morning News, that undercover Dallas cops were issuing the citations.

See also: Dallas Wants to Rewrite its Taxi Rules to Outlaw Uber, the App-Based Private Driver Service

Such stings aren't Dallas' invention. Last January, Washington, D.C., seized an Uber driver's car after handing him a $1,650 in fines. In L.A., undercover enforcement officers have used Uber's app to summon "bandit taxicabs," which they subsequently ticket. Dallas appears to be unique, however, in the deployment of its vice squad.

There aren't a lot of details right now on the nature of the stings, or who ordered them, or why police were called in to enforce something that is typically the purview of code compliance, which has an $825,000 annual budget for regulating transportation-for-hire services. Just that they actually happened.

That fact alone raises a lot of questions for Griggs, who has been one of the louder critics of City Hall's ham-fisted attempt to regulate Uber out of existence. Among them: Is this really a wise use of city resources? If City Hall already has the power to ticket Uber drivers, why does it need the draconian new ordinance that was proposed? And if not, then what the hell is going on?

Good questions, all of them. It now looks like they will get a thorough airing before the Dallas City Council. Rawlings told the Morning News he plans to pull the item off of Wednesday's agenda and send it to committee.


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