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May 17, 2013

Cab dispute reaches Superior Court

LAWRENCE — Cab driver Yovanny DeLeon was cutting through the city on April 22 with a fare he said he was taking from Union Street in Methuen to High Street in North Andover.

A swirl of police lights ended the trip on the Duck Bridge in Lawrence.

Officer William Green pulled over DeLeon’s cab and ordered him and his passenger out. He called a towing company to haul the vehicle away, handed DeLeon a $500 citation and left the two on the street.

“She was really mad because she called the cab company she likes,” DeLeon, a 33-year-old Lawrence resident and a father of two, said yesterday about his passenger. “The police said, ‘I don’t care. You’re supposed to call Lawrence cab services or don’t call anybody. Walk.’”

It was an opening shot in a widening skirmish between the city and an Andover cab company over a month-old law that bans out-of-town cab companies from picking up fares in Lawrence, which yesterday reached the state Superior Court.

In his suit, Ramon Tapia, owner of Andover Central Transportation Corp., likened the law to a “barbed wire surrounding the city” and alleged it is intended only to protect “the three large taxi cartels” that hold 90 percent of Lawrence’s hack licenses.

Tapia asked the court to enjoin Lawrence from enforcing the law until it can hear his claim that it violates both the state and federal constitutions.

He asked for a second injunction blocking the Lawrence City Council from putting more teeth in the new law when it meets on Tuesday, when councilors are scheduled to consider a provision that would allow cops to tow cabs driven by the out-of-town hacks who operate in the city. The law now authorizes police to arrest the drivers and seize evidence but does not specifically authorize them to tow cars, which the council intends to do Tuesday.

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