Anoka County's new "Taxi Squad" car rolls out for New Year's Eve Monday night, starting and possibly ending in Fridley—where the idea for a half-squad, half-cab was born.
Fridley Police Chief Don Abbott was the one who saw a photo of a taxi squad and started doing research and polling other Anoka County police chiefs about their interest in a vehicle that could communicate an anti-drunk-driving message.
Fridley Police Capt. Bob Rewitzer saw a taxi cab in Texas and brought back a photo on his phone.
On Monday, with police chiefs from participating cities and Anoka County Sheriff James Stuart, what Abbott said appears to be the first taxi squad in Minnesota debuted at a press conference at Fridley's Fire Station No. 1.
Abbott said the taxi squad would travel to bars and restaurants for New Year's Eve, but not to perform either taxi or law enforcement duties. Instead, its purpose is to get the word out that people who drink should plan another form of transportation, such as a lift from a friend or a bus or taxi ride.
Two Stooges Bar & Grill was set as the New Year's Eve starting point, where the Taxi Squad was scheduled to be at 7:05 p.m. Monday. With one Fridley officer and one Anoka County deputy, the taxi squad would then make the rounds in Columbia Heights (Sarna's Grill and Tasty Pizza/Hangar 45), back to Fridley (Shortstop) and Spring Lake Park (Biff's Sports Bar).
Stops in Lexington, Circle Pines, Blaine, Lino Lakes, Coon Rapids, Ham Lake, Andover, Anoka and Ramsey were to follow, before returning to Monte's in Spring Lake Park and Pickle Park in Fridley.
Maaco in Fridley painted the yellow cab half of a decomissioned Blaine Police Department squad car to create the taxi squad, and the Fridley Department of Public Works connected the TAXI sign on top, said Fridley Officer Andy Todd, who coordinated the work.
During the taxi squad's stops at bars and restaurants, the officers will park in the parking lot for 15–20 minutes to talk with customers as they come and go. The taxi squad is covered with messages about not drinking and driving—and the costs and consequences for making the wrong choice.