Driver hailed by police for helping to protect teenage girls

The driver was personally thanked by Chief Superintendent Sarah Pitt and Sergeant Maria Ord at the company's Southwick headquarters.

A vigilant taxi driver who rang police after fearing for the safety of two young passengers has been commended by officers.

Anthony Robson, 34, has been a cab driver with Station Taxis since 2009 and was working a shift in Sunderland city centre in the early hours of August 24 this year.

At about 3am, he picked up two teenage girls from the Doxford Park area and they asked to be taken to a hotel on High Street West.

But the driver grew suspicious after a 34-year-old man, who was known to one of the girls, came out of the hotel and paid the fare. He then proceeded to lead them into the premises.

Concerned for the girls’ welfare, Anthony – who along with his colleagues receive regular vulnerability training by officers – rang 999 and passed on the information to police.

The training developed by Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuinness’s office helps spot signs of potentially vulnerable people in the night-time environment.

Officers swiftly attended the address and the two girls, aged 15 and 16, were safely taken home to their parents after hotel staff also stepped in when sensing something was not right.

This week, Chief Superintendent Sarah Pitt and Sergeant Maria Ord both attended Station Taxi’s headquarters in Southwick to personally thank Anthony for his instinctive actions and present him with a commendation.

“This could easily have resulted in a different outcome and Anthony could have easily overlooked what he had seen,” Ch Supt Pitt said.

“But as a result of the vulnerability training that we deliver to a range of partners including taxi drivers, hoteliers and door staff in the city centre, he thought something was not quite right and contacted police.

“That enabled officers to attend the hotel and subsequently safeguard the two teenage girls. They were taken home and offered advice, while we also spoke with their parents.

“Anthony should be very proud of his actions and we thought it was important to showcase our gratitude on behalf of the Force by presenting him with a Commander’s Compliment.”

Sgt Ord works closely with those who operate in Sunderland’s night-time economy and delivers tailored training sessions to help city centre partners spot signs of vulnerability or city centre flashpoints.

“Our officers have a fantastic relationship with those who work in our night-time economy which ultimately helps us to protect the public,” Sgt Ord said.

“In this case, Anthony spotted that the two girls may be vulnerable as a result of the training he received and gave us a call. That allowed us to react quickly and ensure nobody came to harm.

“Our work in the city centre is not just about reacting to incidents, it’s also about preventing them from happening in the first place, and that was evident here.

“Every month, we deliver vulnerability training for taxi drivers and other city centre partners to educate them on how best to identify and safeguard people who may be vulnerable for a wide range of reasons, and who could therefore be more likely to be a victim of crime.”

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness, said Anthony's actions were a "great example" of the public working with police to keep people safe.

She said: “Sometimes people don’t realise they are vulnerable and they can get caught up in a situation which has devastating consequences. It’s a relief to hear that on this occasion a quick thinking taxi driver raised the alarm.

"He could easily have thought it was none of his business but safeguarding is everyone’s business – he phoned the police so the girls could be brought to safety. Anthony’s actions are a great example of how the community can be the eyes and ears of policing.

"If something doesn’t seem quite right, the chances are it isn’t so please contact the police and they will do their job.”

Trevor Hines, managing director of Station Taxis, highlighted the importance of the training delivered to all of its drivers.

He said: “Our priority is the safety of our passengers and drivers, which is why this training is essential to ensure our drivers have the tools and knowledge to identify and report any concerns.

"Our drivers have a unique reach into society and often see and hear things that other people may not see. As a result, we have a huge responsibility in the local community to protect vulnerable passengers. 

"The safeguarding training provided by Northumbria Police enables the drivers to be confident in recognising types of abuse and exploitation and how to report anything that they may be worried about.

"We are proud to have drivers like Anthony, who has potentially prevented something bad from happening with his actions. We work closely with Northumbria Police and all of the other stakeholders in the evening economy to make sure that everyone feels safe in the city."

Commendations will also be given to the hotel staff who stepped in and prevented the girls from going upstairs, and waited with them until officers attended.

Two men, aged 34 and 20, were spoken to by police following the incident. They were offered appropriate advice and officers were satisfied that no criminal offences had taken place.

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