Metro Cab Drivers on High Alert

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It's a dangerous job driving complete strangers all over the city in the back seat of your car.  So how do you protect yourself?  Kansas City cab drivers say their instincts are their best defense.  But even that can't always save their life.

For close to 50 years City Cab driver Howard Hunt has been carting people around Kansas City.

"You have to have a love for people," said cab driver Howard Hunt.

He's been doing it long enough to know when danger is lurking.

"Certain alarms go off when I think something is not quite right," he said.

With city laws restricting cab drivers from carrying weapons, taxis have always been an easy target for criminals looking for fast cash.

"I think basically what we use to defend ourselves is communication," he said.

It's that communication that's gotten Hunt out of a situation or two, including his ride with a knife-wielding woman he picked up from a mental institution in St. Joe.  Hunt said that was a strange ride.

"I said 'well why do you need the knife?' and she said 'because I'm going to cut somebody's head off,'" he said. "I didn't want to hear that because she's sitting behind me you know."

Hunt talked the woman into throwing the knife out the window, but there have also been situations he couldn't escape.

"Life is a chance within itself you know so when you pick someone up you know your taking a chance but you're trying to make an honest dollar," he said.

The owner of King James Transportation says repeated robberies of his drivers pushed him to switch to unmarked cars, taking away the obvious moving target.

"I always tell all my drivers, when you pull up to a stop, make sure the door is locked. Always look around," said owner James Palmer.

Now, with the latest killing of a Metro cab driver, Hunt says it not only affects the drivers but also the people they service.

"When an incident happens it may cause some of the drivers to become leery and they won't service those areas and that is bad because there are good people in there that do need cabs and they're not playing games," Hunt said.

Both Hunt and Palmer say more than half of their daily business is now paid by credit cards which means they don't carry much cash. However, both also say that's something criminals don't know or don't care.

As for the murder of their fellow cab driver, police still have no suspects in the Richardson case.

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