Recent robberies in the capital involving taxis have sparked concerns among stakeholders over the safety of the city's public transportation.
Jakarta Police are currently investigating a series of robberies that occurred in taxis over the past week involving white taxis allegedly bearing the logo of one of the most popular taxi operators in the city, the Express Group. The incidents occurred on Monday and last Friday, when two women were robbed at knife point by men who had been hiding in the trunks and entered the cabs through the back seats.
Express Group management has denied the allegation that the cars used by the robbers, who were still at large, were their official taxi cabs.
Addressing a press conference on Thursday in South Jakarta, Express Group finance director David Santoso said that the robbers had used the popularity of Express taxis to lure the victims.
"Our GPS data shows that the real taxis with the registration numbers DP 8015 and DP 8012 [allegedly used during the crimes] were operating elsewhere when the crimes occurred. We alleged that the culprits had disguised the car they used," he said, adding that the company had modified its taxis' trunks so they could not be accessed from inside the car or vice versa.
Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Rikwanto said that investigators had confirmed that the white taxis the victims were robbed in were not from the Express Group.
"The investigators went to several taxi pools where the Express Group taxis were located and they were different to the ones the victims were robbed in. We even brought the victims to see the taxis and the taxi drivers of those registration numbers and they also confirmed it," he said.
He added it was impossible for perpetrators to come out of the trunk through the car's back seat because of how the Express Group vehicles were designed. It was more likely that the perpetrators modified a white sedan to make it look like an Express taxi.
A regular user of the Express Group service, Ainun Chomsun, posted on her Twitter account to say that, "as a regular, I am worried sick after hearing the news."
David confirmed that the robberies had affected the image of the Express Group company and, to some extent, caused it losses.
"We have indeed suffered from losses since the cases came into the spotlight. There's an apparent decrease in the number of customers over the past few days," David said, declining to elaborate.
The Express Group operates 11,000 taxis - 8,000 of them in the Greater Jakarta area - and employs 24,000 drivers, of which 16,000 work around Jakarta. The conglomerate officially went public in 2012.
Land Transportation Organisation (Organda) Jakarta chapter chairman Shafruhan Sinungan lamented the incidents, saying that the cases were occuring when public transportation operators were improving their services.
"These incidents have hurt the transportation business in general, not only taxis. We have started to encourage our members to improve services and so on. Now it is even harder to persuade motorists to shift to public transportation," he said, emphasizing that the organisation has its own mechanism to ensure that operators fulfil service standards.
"We always evaluate our members. We won't hesitate to cancel the permit of a unit that has violated regulations," he said.
Organda's taxi unit division head, M. Siburian, called on the police to thoroughly investigate the cases and immediately find the perpetrators.
"This case has evidently hurt the taxi business," he said.
Organda records 35 taxi operators listed under its aegis, five of which were premium taxi operators.
Robberies in cabs in 2014
Dec 1: An employee named Rika Prasetia is robbed in the SCBD business district, on Jl. Sudirman in South Jakarta.
Nov 28: An employee named Rini became a victim of a robbery in a cab in Kuningan, South Jakarta. The robbers hid in the cab's trunk. The robbers allegedly plotted with the taxi driver.
July 12: Dong Won Lee (42), a S. Korean citizen, is robbed by a taxi driver in the capital.
March 14: A passenger is robbed in a cab in Tanjung Duren, West Jakarta.
March 18: A woman is robbed by a taxi driver near the Mediterania Apartment, Tanjung Duren, West Jakarta.
March 18: A passenger is robbed near the STEKPI campus on Jl. Podomoro, in Sunter, North Jakarta.
March: A taxi passenger is robbed on Jl. Mangga Besar VIII in West Jakarta. Robbers take cash worth Rp 400,000, a watch and a cell phone from the victim.
February: A passenger is robbed in front of the Citraland shopping mall in West Jakarta.