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Students assaulted on Cabbie D party bus

January 23rd, 2014

Last Friday, Jan. 17 at 7:30 p.m., the John Carroll University community received a security alert from Brian Hurd, assistant director of the JCU Police Department, concerning an incident of assault and harassment that occurred on Dec. 21, 2013 on Cabbie D party bus, a common method of transportation for JCU students going out on weekend evenings.

The Jeanne Clery Act requires JCUPD to “issue timely warnings about Clery Act crimes such as criminal homicide, sex offenses, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft and arson which pose a serious or ongoing threat to students and employees.” The Cabbie D incident was not released to the JCU community until mid-January because JCUPD wanted to collect more information regarding the incident and wanted to ensure that the alert did not get lost in email inboxes during winter break, according to Hurd.

Cabbie D is a transportation service operated by driver David Aikens, more commonly known as Cabbie D. Aikens’ party bus makes an unofficial loop around the University Heights and Cleveland Heights area every Thursday through Saturday night for a round trip fee of $5 to go to Coventry Village or $10 to go to downtown Cleveland. Cabbie D is also available for hire for special events.

“What I do is I provide sort of like a shuttle service for anyone who doesn’t want to drink and drive,” said Aikens. “It’s sort of like the RTA.”

According to the security alert, the assault and harassment happened on Cabbie D on Dec. 21, 2013 at 2:30 a.m. The report states that after picking some JCU students up from downtown, Aikens informed the JCU passengers that he was picking up a group of non-JCU students on the way back to JCU’s campus.

Hurd said that the bus was apparently overcapacity to begin with, and Aikens was not paying attention to the amount of people in the confined area on the bus.

Once the other group of passengers boarded the bus, they immediately began harassing the JCU students for sitting in “their” seats, which escalated into punching and hair pulling directed at a female JCU student.

The other JCU students were able to stop the assault, but the non-JCU students continued to verbally harass the students from JCU as well as grab their wallets and cellphones. One of the non-JCU male passengers stated that he was carrying a knife.

“I didn’t see nobody with a knife,” said Aikens. “That sounds a little threatening to me.

I don’t think nobody’s carrying knives when they’re trying to go out and enjoy yourselves and party.”

Aikens said that he did not try to stop the fight. He instead relied on the security he hires whenever he has a large group of passengers heading downtown.

“If you have a mishap with one of the passengers, I’m the driver and everything is behind me,” Aikens said.

The JCU students told JCUPD a security guard was present on the bus, but he did not make an effort to stop the attacks or harassment. During the bus ride, one of the JCU students reportedly called Aikens on the phone and asked him to stop the vehicle, but Aikens did not do so until he reached JCU’s campus.

“He’s doing his job,” Aikens said of the security guard. “You know, he keeps everyone from killing each other. When you’re dealing with a lot of people with alcohol in them, sometimes it can get a little wild.”

JCUPD reported that the student who was assaulted was not seriously injured and did not seek medical attention for the attack. However, JCUPD expressed their concern for students using the service, urging them to seek alternative forms of transportation.

Hurd said that one of his biggest concerns about Cabbie D is that lack of attention that Aikens pays to the people riding the bus.

“This was something that happened very quickly, and I think the students hesitated to call 911 because they were not sure where they were and were not sure if it would work to call the police,” Hurd said.

Hurd said the students handled the issue well, especially considering they were in a confined space.

“Students should not be afraid to call 911 if a situation gets out of hand,” said Hurd. “This incident provides us with an opportunity to have a discussion on campus about being safe going to different places in Cleveland and other modes of transportation. After the incident, administrators started asking questions about safer options for transportation that we could look into.”

The safety of riding Cabbie D has been questioned before. In 2009, Aikens sideswiped a JCU student’s vehicle while en route to pick up JCU students and was cited with failure to maintain control by the University Heights Police Department.

The 2009 accident sparked a dialogue about the questionable safety of services such as Cabbie D and was met with similar requests from the University administrators for students to find other modes of transportation.

“I decided my freshman year that I was never going to ride Cabbie D again,” said junior Danielle Keane. “It was too unsafe. Being a woman on the bus, surrounded by people who were drinking, it just didn’t seem like a good idea.”

Aikens said he still believes riding Cabbie D is a safe alternative for JCU students who want to avoid driving while drunk.

“It’s better than driving down the street intoxicated,” said Aikens. “Sometimes, when you’ve got a lot of people with alcohol in them, the alcohol takes over. I guess you have your choice to try to drink and drive or catch the bus and try to be safe, but as far as alcohol, you just never know where that’s going to go when you’ve got a lot of alcohol in their systems.”