Uber, a private company, is under fire again to start the week after a California man was accused of sexual assault. The man, 39 years old, drove for Uber with the intent of picking up young women in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo.
California has suffered from a recent increase in crimes related to ride sharing drivers.
Investigators claim the man, named Alfonso Alarcon-Nunez, used his status as an Uber driver to sexually assault at least four women. The women in question were all between the ages of 19 and 22.
Jordan Cunningham, the 35th District Assemblyman, is calling for Uber’s background check policies to be reviewed. “I think these events have really scared and worried people,” he explains. “I think everyone wants to trust and make sure that they’re safe,” he continues.
Uber and other ride sharing companies are regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). Cunningham is asking CPUC to make sure that Uber is doing its job when conducting background checks. He asks CPUC to get information from Uber and to allow lawmakers to view the information to determine if something can be changed to increase the safety of ride share passengers.
Some women have come to the defense of Uber claiming that it’s up to women to choose whether or not they feel comfortable using Uber. Most users claim that Uber does a good job with their background checks.
Nunez, however, is one of many recent examples of a driver using their position to sexually assault women. He is charged with 10 felonies against four different victims. Investigators also claim that he is in the country illegally.
Uber drivers are also at risk of picking up the wrong passenger as demonstrated in St. Ann. The driver was involved in a carjacking on Sunday. The Uber driver was stabbed in his head before the passenger stole his vehicle and fled the scene.
Police were involved in a high-speed chase with the thief.
The suspect was eventually caught after he was corned by several police vehicles. The victim luckily survived the incident and had to go to the hospital for treatment. The attack occurred after the driver and passenger were involved in a heated dispute over money.
Uber is trying to correct its image with a new public campaign to help stop sex trafficking. The company is enlisting the help of drivers, both on a regional and local level, to help fight against human trafficking.
The campaign targets 750,000 U.S. drivers and is expected to be expanded into other countries. Uber will include information, presented to drivers, when they open the app on how to spot human trafficking victims and how to report incidents.
Taxi and limo drivers are under law, in New York City, that requires all drivers to watch a video on human trafficking prior to being able to take a job. Uber does not fall within similar laws which means their drivers are not properly trained on spotting human trafficking.
The new initiative is an attempt to help restore Uber’s image after a year of its image being tarnished.