Boston Uber driver accused of raping and kidnapping passenger
Fri 19 Dec 2014
As Uber treads through fierce global scrutiny amid numerous sexual assault cases involving its ‘amateur taxi-drivers’, the car-hailing service faces another damaging blow following an alleged rape of a young woman in Boston.
The district attorney’s office for Massachusetts’ Middlesex County announced this week that Alejandro Done, 46, had been charged with rape, assault to rape, kidnapping and two counts of assault and battery after reportedly attacking a woman in an Uber-registered vehicle on 6th December.
Allegedly the young woman had hailed an Uber via the smartphone app, and the driver had insisted that she pay cash for the ride. Done drove the young woman to a secluded area, pulled over and proceeded to attack her, said the attorney’s office.
“This alleged predator took advantage of a young woman who trusted that he was who he portrayed himself to be and exploited her vulnerability once he had her in his car,” said district attorney Marian Ryan in a statement.
The attorney’s statement also reads that Uber has been “cooperative and has provided assistance” with the investigation, identifying Done through its records.
“This is a despicable crime and our thoughts and prayers are with the victim during her recovery,” said Uber spokesperson Kaitlin Durkosh. “Uber has been working closely with law enforcement and will continue to do everything we can to assist their investigation.”
Although Uber states that it has always maintained strict background check on its drivers, the company announced this week that it would be boosting its safety measures.
“We have more work to do, and we will do it,” said Phillip Cardenas, head of global safety at Uber. “Uber is committed to developing new technology tools that improve safety, strengthen and increase the number of cities and countries where background checks are conducted and improve communication with local officials and law enforcement.”
These new tools include biometric and voice verification technologies to improve driver checks, as well as a Safety Incident Response programmes to provide support to its customers in the event of an emergency.
According to The Boston Globe, this is the fourth occasion an Uber customer has been a victim of assault or harassment in the city over the last month. This most recent attack follows a report in India of a New Delhi driver raping a woman, and the consequent banning of the service in the city.
Uber has also been deemed illegal in other international markets including Portland, South Korea, and Seoul. However despite its controversy, the company has remained adamant that its services are legal and remains operating in these regions.
The amateur taxi firm released this month that it was now valued at around $40bn, and has since signed a partnership with Chinese search giant Baidu to bundle its services alongside Baidu’s mapping and search applications.