An Uber driver was charged with indecent assault and battery against a passenger on Sunday morning, police said, an incident that comes amid an intensifying debate over how to regulate the popular ridehailing service and after several similar assault allegations.
According to an Uber spokeswoman, the driver recently passed a background check and the company is cooperating with the investigation being conducted by the Boston Police Sexual Assault Unit.
“The driver in question has been removed from the platform pending the ongoing investigation,” said Kaitlin Durkosh, an Uber spokeswoman.
A 30-year-old Boston woman told police that she and three friends had summoned an Uber ride. After her friends were dropped off, the woman remained in the car to go to a separate location and during that time, the driver touched her indecently several times, according to police.
The woman left the car and was helped by another person, who called police.
The driver, Abderrahim Dakiri, 36, of Boston was arrested at about 3:25 a.m. Sunday in the North End and charged in the assault, Boston police said in a statement. Dakiri remains in police custody, according to the department.
The arrest follows a string of attacks late last year on women who had hailed rides using ride-hailing services.
In December, Alejandro Done, 46, of Boston, who worked as an Uber driver, was charged with raping and kidnapping a woman, though it is unclear whether he was working as an Uber driver at the time. His case is pending.
In three earlier indecent assaults on Dec. 14 in Boston, it was not known whether the assailants were Uber drivers, though the victims said they had hailed a ride via the Uber smartphone app.
Durkosh said Dakiri drove as part of the UberX service, a lower-cost option in which drivers use their own vehicles. He had previously been affiliated with UberBLACK, a higher-end service. Durkosh said Dakiri passed a background screening as recently as Jan. 13.
The arrest comes as local governments and the administration of Governor Charlie Baker consider how to regulate ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft. Baker has said the companies can continue their current practices until lawmakers agree on how to regulate them.
“As announced last week, the administration has begun the process of gathering input from municipalities to draft statewide regulations to enhance the safety of both riders and drivers, including mandatory background checks,” Elizabeth Guyton, the governor’s press secretary, said in a statement Monday.
Taxi owners, who must buy medallions that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, have sued the City of Boston for allowing the services to operate without the same regulation that they face. Cab companies have cited the recent assault allegations against Uber drivers in their arguments for more regulation of the ride-hailing companies.
Britni de la Cretaz, a member of Safe Hub Collective, a group whose goal is to make public spaces safer, said the collective reached out to Uber Boston representatives more than a year ago to discuss developing a rider-safety training session for their drivers, but a partnership was never formed.
“The onus needs to be on Uber to ensure as safe an experience as possible for their passengers,” said de la Cretaz.
Anyone with information on Sunday’s alleged assault can call Boston police at 617-343-4400. Anyone wishing to remain anonymous can call 1-800-494-TIPS or text the word ‘TIP’ to CRIME (27463).