Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Las Diamelas Mototaxi Association

A theme common in some of my recent posts has been the gradual change toward modernization in Chiclayo. It’s happening slowly in many facets of daily life. Yesterday the Las Diamelas Mototaxi Association took a formal step in that change process...a step that is intended to reduce crime as well as improve safety.

Many Chiclayanos rely on moto taxis to travel short distances both day and night. Unfortunately moto taxis are a favorite tool for many thieves, and especially at night. They usually work in teams of two, driving non-descript  vehicles without lights or plates. One of their methods is to quickly pull up next to a target they’ve decided on in advance. One of the thieves will jump out; grab a purse, camera or cell phone and be back in the now departing moto before the victim knows what happened. Another method is to drive the unsuspecting passenger(s) to a dark location where confederates are waiting to strong arm the victims.

In order to reduce the use of motos for robbery, Chiclayo authorities have recently issued new regulations. Yesterday the entire Las Diamelas Mototaxi Association had assembled for a mandatory inspection by transportation authorities. Inspectors first asked to see their documents which include the national identification card, proof of moto ownership, driver’s license and insurance certificate.  

Next the vehicles were inspected for safety, and then for conformation to appearance and display of required information. In the past there were no regulations regarding color or vehicle/association identification except for a rear mounted license plate. The changes are significant. Exterior covering material must be a specific shade of blue. License plates must be visible and permanently mounted. A mandatory yellow sign atop the moto must display the complete association name on the front, and show the individual license plate number on the back. If the moto driver works during the evening, the yellow sign must be capable of being illuminated.  What the information on the sign means (Asociacion Las Diamelas 2 Y 3) is that motos belonging to this association are authorized to use the 2nd and 3rd blocks on Ave. Las Diamelas to park their motos while waiting for passengers, similar to a taxi stand in the USA.

The guys had worked hard to get their motos clean and to code. One thing they did not anticipate was being told that decals or other obstructions on the fairing and windows are prohibited. Decals are popular here on taxis and moto taxis, so many were scrambling to remove them before the inspector got to their machine. Decals are not just a safety concern. It is common, at least in Chiclayo, for combi, taxi, colectivo and moto taxi owners to pay ‘protection’. The protection fee is typically one Nuevo Sol per day per vehicle. The extortionist will give a unique decal to the vehicle owner to affix to a window, warning off other extortionists. Police are familiar with the decals and their purpose and insist that owners remove them.

Soon all moto taxis in Chiclayo will look identical to each other. So how does that reduce crime? I’m not sure it will. It could have the opposite affect…thieves motos will be indistinguishable from any other. And they will find a way to attach and remove phony or stolen yellow signs in seconds.

The best advice to avoid moto taxi thievery is to use drivers waiting for passengers in a legitimate moto park. Secondly, if any moto – legitimate looking or not should quickly stop next to you, don’t even think about it…run!

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