Police in Mobile are urging citizens to be careful when using ride-hailing services after a woman reported being sexually assaulted after getting into a car with a man she believed was an Uber driver in Downtown Mobile.
According to the Mobile Police Department (MPD), two women left the Saddle Up Saloon on Jackson Street around 2 a.m., June 8, and accepted a ride with an unknown man near Conception Street.
Though the exact details weren’t clear, police later said both women believed the car was sent from Uber, even though they had not ordered a ride through the service’s mobile app. One of the women later told investigators she was taken to the Trinity Gardens area and sexually assaulted.
After releasing photos of the suspect and his vehcile taken from security camera footage, police arrested 33-year-old Demetric Robinson on June 17, charging him with first-degree sodomy, first-degree rape and a probation violation in connection to the alleged assault.
Police said they do not believe Robinson has ever been employed by Uber.
According to Metro Jail records, Robinson has an extensive criminal history in Mobile County and has faced more than two dozen arrests on charges that range from robbery and burglary to drug possession. Robinson does not appear to have any prior arrests for sexual offenses, though, or for violent crimes other than a single “carrying a concealed weapon” charge in 2005.
As he was transferred from MPD headquarters to jail Monday afternoon, Robinson told members of the media “I ain’t rape nobody” and “I don’t do nothing like that.” Members of Robinson’s family have also maintained his innocence in posts on social media.
Cpl. LaDerrick DuBose, a public information officer for MPD, has encouraged Mobilians using ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft to “use common sense” and make sure they’re getting into the right vehicle.
“If someone approaches you and you know you didn’t call for an Uber, don’t take the ride,” DuBose said. “If you do need an Uber, call one … order one, but verify that you have a ride. Don’t just jump into a car because somebody says they are who they are.”
It’s important to note Robinson doesn’t appear to have ever been employed with Uber and likely wouldn’t have passed the company’s required background check for drivers due to his criminal record. Still, sexual assaults by drivers and people claiming to be drivers has been a concern for Uber nationally.
According to the safety tips published on Uber’s website, passengers are encouraged to make sure they’re getting into the correct vehicle. They also note the app allows users to verify their driver’s license plate, the make and model of the car and provide a photograph of the driver.
“Uber trips can only be requested through the app, so never get in a car where the vehicle or driver’s identity doesn’t match what’s displayed in your app,” the website says. “You can also ask the driver to confirm your name before you get in the car. Your driver sees your first name in their app, and your driver’s first name is displayed to you in your app.”
More information about ride-hailing safety is available at uber.com.
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