(CBS) WASHINGTON - Seven D.C. cab drivers have reportedly been arrested for assaulting passengers, sparking a plan to install panic buttons in every taxicab by the year's end.
"What we're seeing is an increase in [cab drivers] physically manhandling their fares," D.C. Taxicab Commission Chairman Ron Linton told ABC affiliate WJLA.
According to Linton, six of the seven victims who were pulled from the vehicles or punched in recent weeks have been women. All seven drivers involved in those attacks have been arrested, he added.
The station reports some cabs in D.C. already have a safety switch that turns on a "Call 911" light at the top of the car, but the D.C. Taxicab Commission now wants passengers to have a panic button, too.
Cab drivers say the panic button is a necessary tool to prevent crimes, and passengers interviewed say they would feel safer with it.
The commission says if the button is pushed, law enforcement officials should arrive on the scene within minutes.
But some worry about the strain this would cause law enforcement. On Monday morning, Montgomery County Police were dispatched after a Maryland cab driver accidentally pushed his panic button while sleeping.
"We treat calls for crimes in progress as serious and would respond accordingly," said MPD spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump.
The D.C. Taxicab Commission said it hopes a proposed surcharge of up to 50 cents per ride would help pay for the installation of panic buttons as well as other proposed advanced features, like credit card machines and GPS units.
The panic buttons are expected to be installed in all D.C. cabs by December.