Southampton Town Pushes Stricter Background Checks For For-Hire Drivers

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Southampton Town officials want to require all drivers employed by private livery companies, including Uber and Lyft, to submit to mandatory fingerprint testing, citing growing concerns for the safety of their customers.

The Town Board has scheduled a public hearing for Tuesday, December 13, on the proposed change to a local law that, if adopted, would make the fingerprinting mandatory for all drivers when applying for an operator’s license in the municipality. The update would require that all drivers submit their fingerprints to the town regardless of whether they already obtained a vehicle-for-hire license from Suffolk County. Taxi drivers employed in the town already have to submit to fingerprint testing.

“It all comes down to public safety,” Town Councilman Stan Glinka said last week. “Over the past year to 18 months, there’s been a lot of criticism nationwide about the safety of Uber in particular. That was really one of the forefronts of this effort.”

Representatives of Uber did not return an email seeking comment.

Under the existing code, an app-based driver must pay annual fees that total $1,000 as they are considered livery operators by the town. They must also work through a registered business, for which there is an owner’s license that costs $750. Additionally, they must pay a $150 fee for every vehicle used, and a $100 fee for every driver employed. The fee schedule is similar to what taxi companies already pay to operate in the town.

Mr. Glinka said he recently sat down with town and police officials to go over the code and see where it could be improved—a discussion, he said, that prompted the push for stricter background checks for private for-hire companies. The councilman added that the next step will be to try and get the villages and hamlets in Southampton Town to adopt similar changes to have a more “unified” impact on the East End.

The meeting on December 3 begins at 1 p.m. in Southampton Town Hall.

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