LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- Unverified drivers looking to take advantage of a taxi and rideshare shortage are increasing their presence on the streets of Las Vegas, according to state officials, who said the issue is leading to robberies and other crimes.
"Unlawful cash rides from people who aren't licensed through the agencies or through any of the transportation network companies, and these are literally people who are posting ads on Craigslist, or driving up to big crowds in front of events, and yelling out, 'Does anybody need a ride?'" said JD Decker, interim administrator of Nevada Taxicab Authority.
The local transportation leader said the supply and demand issues are tempting desperate riders during busy ridership periods, resulting in precarious situations outside of large event venues, specifically.
"We get complaints from the public saying, 'Hey, I took a cash ride. This person robbed me. What can you do?' And we don't know who that person was," Decker said.
Even if it may be convenient, Decker strongly advised people against taking an unverified ride, as it makes them vulnerable for being a victim of a crime.
"Sometimes they're driving stolen cars, sometimes they're driving rental cars, sometimes there's other crimes that are involved, things to entice people to get in the car, to either rob them, or sell drugs or all kinds of other crimes that we see," Decker said. "And then we have no way to figure out who that person was to find out, to prosecute a crime or that kind of thing."
The problem stems from a shortage of licensed drivers, both taxi and rideshare. Simultaneously, ridership has skyrocketed back to nearly pre-pandemic levels, Decker said.
Decker said that cab companies are now offering incentives to improve the situation.
"Taxicabs don't have the availability to surge price. There was an idea thrown out to provide a financial incentive for taxi drivers to make certain runs, say, between downtown and the airport, or between the Strip and the airport. I'm not sure where that went. I think that would be a company program at this point," he said.
He pointed out that taxi companies would benefit financially from adding more cars and drivers on the roads.
"Demand is high. It would pay to have more cars on the road. So I think most of the companies are very concerned with how to get more drivers behind the wheel," Decker said.
He said some companies are also now paying the permit costs for prospective cab drivers to entice them to work for them.
In the meantime, for prospective riders, he recommended scheduling cabs or Ubers ahead of time, or driving your own car or rental car and designating a sober driver.
"The more you plan ahead, the more time you build in, the less likely you are to choose an option that might be dangerous for you through an unlawful cash ride," he said.