Taxi Driver

It seems hard to believe, but it’s true: The Taxi and Limousine Commission can find out if a would-be driver ever had a brush with the law in New York, but if the potential cabbie committed a felony outside of the state, well, there’s no way of knowing.

That ought to change, and the TLC would like it to change. Unfortunately, the State Legislature won’t allow the TLC to properly investigate applicants for hack licenses. It’s O.K. for the commission to look up criminal records from New York. But legislators, bowing to the misguided fears of civil libertarians, won’t let the TLC to tap into the F.B.I.’s national database.

The TLC needs the Legislature’s explicit permission to gather criminal data from all 50 states because it is not a law-enforcement agency. But the TLC is responsible for the safety of millions of taxi passengers. It would seem only right that the commission should have as much information as possible about people who apply to become taxi drivers.

Bear in mind that the TLC is not looking to spy on anybody. It is not looking to collect information of a dubious nature. It is simply looking for access to information that already has been collected by the F.B.I. and stored in the National Crime Information Center. Shouldn’t the TLC know, for example, if an applicant was convicted of a firearms charge in Ohio, a rape in Vermont or a holdup in Florida?

The TLC has been pushing for access to this kind of information for years, but nobody in the State Legislature has been willing to champion this common-sense reform. A spokesman for the commission, Allan Fromberg, recently told the New York Post that city taxi passengers “deserve the utmost in security, and we should have the proper tools to help us provide it.”

Exactly so. What a shame that legislators do not agree.