Taxi On Patrol Program Pays Off On Day One

Taxi Driver Helped Get License Plate Number That Led Police To Deadly Hit-And-Run Vehicle

A new program that has taxi drivers acting as another set of eyes for police has already led to one arrest.

A Metro Taxi driver saw a white pickup truck sideswipe a vehicle waiting for valet parking outside the Rockstar Lounge Saturday night. Valet driver Jose Medina was killed in the crash. The taxi driver followed the pickup and was able to write down the license plate number and call police. Police found the pickup Tuesday night and arrested an illegal immigrant in connection to the case.

A program called "Taxis on Patrol" had started less than 24 hours before the crash. TOPS has taxi drivers on the lookout for crime. Drivers who call either 911 or the non-emergency police dispatch number are given priority if they say they are part of TOPS.

"He did absolutely everything right. That driver did everything right. He followed his training to a 'T'," said Metro Taxi TOPS spokesman Larry Stevenson. "We are, and I believe the public would agree, we are calling him a hero. If not for his actions, this family would not be able to eventually get closure to this unfortunate tragedy."

After the license plate number was released by police, officers received tips leading them to a home in Commerce City.

Eliu Montes-Garcia was arrested in Aurora and is being held in the Denver jail in connection with the hit-and-run crash.

"We're not saying he's the driver. His role exactly has not been determined yet," said Denver police spokesman Sonny Jackson. "We're still looking for other additional parties."

"We're ecstatic that our driver was able to contribute to someone, at least someone being arrested and someone being questioned," said Stevenson.

Metro Taxi, Yellow Cab, Freedom Cab and Union Taxi drivers are all part of the program.

"My personal incentive -- it's morally right," said Metro Taxi driver Charles Helton. "Most criminals are looking for police officers to come around, but now when they know that there's cab drivers that are out there with their eyes actually observing what's going on in the neighborhood, it's going to make them second guess every time they see a cab coming down the street."

Helton, a former Denver guardian angel described calling in suspected drunk drivers, watching for suspicious activity near parked cars, porches and anyone loitering at parks or near homes.

"They may say, 'It's only a cab,' and then all of a sudden you have police officers responding," said Helton.

Metro Taxi drivers are told not to break any traffic laws, even if that means missing out on getting important details for police.

Metro Taxi offers its drivers a bonus of $250 every three months for the driver who reports activities that lead to the most arrests, or at least the most prevention of crimes.