Is Uber safe? Background checks examined post-arrest of Denver driver

Uber driver accused of sexual assault

DENVER - Following the arrest of another Uber driver in Colorado, regulators are investigating whether private background checks are effective.

Under state law, ridesharing operations, such as Uber and Lyft, are not required to undergo the same CBI and FBI fingerprint background checks as taxi and limo drivers.  

"I had to go through a ten-year federal background check with fingerprints to be a cab driver," said Roger Harris, who has driven a taxi in Denver for seven years. "And if I commit a crime the Public Utilities Commission is notified and I lose my license."

But Uber is allowed to use a private company to do background checks, and nationally, prosecutors have said convicted criminals have slipped through the process. 

Just this year in Colorado, one Uber driver was accused of trying to burglarize a Denver passenger's home  and another Uber driver was accused of sexually assaulting a passenger in Denver.

"As soon as we heard about that this morning, I directed my staff to contact Uber to obtain the information that the company has on file for the driver," said Doug Dean, director of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. "I want to look and see if there’s any information to be gleaned from that background check to ensure that those private background checks are effective."

Denver7 Reporter Jaclyn Allen asked if a more thorough background check would have prevented the crimes from happening.

"We just don't know the answer to that until we run the fingerprints ourselves, which we don't have the ability to do," said Dean. 

Fingerprint checks are no fail-safe, though.

In May, a Yellow Cab driver was also accused of sexually assaulting a passenger.

"It's no guarantee," said Dean. "But a name-based, private background check can be defeated, in my opinion, by changing your name."

Uber did not respond to our request for comment about its private background checks.

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