KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas City police are warning baseball fans and party-goers of the potential dangers of ride-hailing and taxi services as we approach the Royals postseason.
Champagne soaked the Royals clubhouse and many metro bars Thursday night after the Boys in Blue clinched the Central Division title – the first bottles popped as we head into the postseason.
But police say all that celebratory drinking can put you at risk, especially if you're relying on a ride-hailing service or taxi to get you home.
“Once you drink to intoxication, you’re becoming a potential target for somebody,” said Sgt. Cleve Blakely with KCPD’s Sex Crimes Section. “By getting into a car with somebody that truly is a stranger to them, and if they’re intoxicated or passed out in a vehicle, sometimes bad things like this happen.”
Sgt. Blakely said so far this year, his unit has investigated seven reports of a sexual assault or rape where the victim accused a taxi or ride-hailing driver, or someone who pretended to be one, of attacking them. The local incidents are similar to dozens of others recently reported nationwide.
“We have actually had a case where a person has been drinking to the level of intoxication, that they thought they were getting into a ride service that they had ordered,” he said of a case that occurred in June. “It turned out it was just some random person. They got into his car and like I said, he took advantage of that situation.”
But people who often use ride-hailing apps told FOX 4 they rely on them most when they’re drinking, and they admit safety concerns sometimes take a back seat.
“If I’m getting Uber, it’s usually because I’ve had a few drinks,” said Ethan Cordray, who frequents Westport. “So that’s not one of the first things on my mind. I usually just like to match the car. I usually get in there and hopefully he’s a nice guy.”
Kirtie Lo, who also visits the entertainment districts in the city, agreed.
“Ironically, that’s when you need the ride,” Lo said of transportation after a night of drinking. “So, it’s hard because there are not that many taxicabs in Kansas City. There’s not really a public transportation. Sure, you can take the bus, but the bus is scary, if you ask me. You don’t really have any choices sometimes.”
But police argue you do have the choice to protect yourself – by listening to your gut, being prepared and calling them if you feel unsafe.
“If something doesn`t feel right about the situation,” Sgt. Blakely said, “then it`s probably not right.”
Here are some more safety tips from Sgt. Blakely:
1) Avoid drinking too much, and if you do, travel with a friend.
2) If you’re using a ride service app, make sure the person picking you up matches the driver’s picture, car description and license plate number listed on the app.
3) Screenshot or text your driver and travel information to a friend or family member so someone knows where you are and who you are with.
4) Sit in the back seat so there is space between you and your driver.
5) If you’re taking a taxi, pay with a credit card so there is an electronic record of your trip.
Here are some safety tips provided by Uber:
1) Know your driver. Even before pickup, you are given your driver’s name, photo, car type, and license plate number, so that you have your driver’s identifying information in advance.
2) Confirm that you’re getting in the right car with the right person. Before you get in the car, double-check that the license plate and car make/model match the description in your app. You can also observe whether the driver matches the photo in the app, and ask the driver to confirm his or her name.
3) Need to contact your driver? You are able to call or text your driver through the app using an anonymized phone number. That way, you can talk to the driver without ever sharing any personal information.
4) Share your journey in real-time with friends or loved ones using our Share My ETA feature. This sends a link to a map showing the route you take on your ride.
5) Provide feedback. We take post-ride feedback seriously and use it when evaluating our partner driver relationships.
6) Want more details? Every Uber receipt includes your driver’s name and photo, as well as your exact route and pricing. Your receipt is your detailed guide to your Uber trip.