…and a couple have gotten away.
It’s one of the first suggestions you hear when you break loose in Liberty City: “Find” a taxi and go earn some money. Carjack a cab stopped in traffic, and you can transport NPCs until you get bored, run out of time, or the car explodes from excessive damage. It’s pretty fun and serves as a decent way to get acclimated with the map and the game’s driving mechanics. It’s like a miniature version of Crazy Taxi, if Crazy Taxi started with a random passerby punching one of the drivers in the face and dragging them out through the driver-side door.
As implausible as it seems, several people have tried and even achieved this scheme in real life, and one of the stories is still unfolding.
Inside job in the real San Fierro
Fittingly, our first story unfolded in San Francisco in 2005, not too long after the city served as the inspiration for a key setting in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Here, SFGate.com reports, an unidentified person stole a taxi near police headquarters and put in time as an almost-real taxi driver, picking up passengers and taking them wherever they wanted to go. After a while, they simply ditched the cab to keep police off the trail.
Not content with one clean getaway, the driver pulled this off six times in the span of two weeks.
An inspector quoted in the article speculated that the culprit was likely an ex-employee of a cab company who wouldn’t have seemed out of place to passengers and may have even possessed a master key for the cabs. Perhaps the driver recently lost their license or couldn’t pay the company’s $95 daily gate fee, the inspector suggested. While this theory sounds good (and certainly makes it more interesting), it should have led to a relatively short list of suspects, and the story doesn’t seem to be connected to any arrests.
16 years later, this one seems ripe for a game or movie of its own.
Istanbul’s drug taxi superhero
A much less impressive scenario played out in Turkey just over a month ago, according to TechnoPixel. Here a citizen hailed a cab in Beylikdüzü and directed the driver to a parking structure where he said he planned to meet his father. When they arrived, the two apparently waited long enough that the driver voluntarily got out to use the restroom and left the engine running. The passenger, a man with a lengthy criminal history and wanted at the time for 11 different charges, seized the opportunity to jump behind the wheel and take off.
It’s not clear from the translated news stories whether this was somehow deliberate or simply a crime of opportunity. It’s fun to imagine the perpetrator planning the whole thing, leading the driver to a nice-looking restroom, and trying a variety of cartoonish subliminal tricks to make him think about peeing until he had no other choice.
Days later a fellow taxi driver spotted the thief, leading to a wild 3-star pursuit in which police shot out the car’s tires forcing the perp to bail out before the cab hit a tree. Despite best efforts, he was apprehended shortly thereafter.
As it turns out, the thief had been using the taxi to both sell drugs and pick up anyone who hailed him. He declared his actions a product of “the current system” and said he was a superhero. If this quote sounds too fantastic to be accurate, look no further than the doctored image circulating with the story at various news sites featuring the accused’s head at the time of his arrest over Thor’s body. Today I learned I want to work with these Eurasian news outlets.
The Swindon Swindler
Remember that time Grand Theft Auto 2 visited London? Well, just two hours west lies Swindon where a mysterious masked and hooded figure stole a taxi van and has been terrorizing unsuspecting customers around Old Town. One group told Swindon Advertiser that the driver picked them up from a night club and swerved between lanes at speeds in excess of 100 MPH travelling in the wrong direction before the friends convinced him to stop and let them out. When an argument over payment ensued, the driver allegedly attempted to jump the curb and run them over before threatening gun violence.
When police called on the public to help identify the taxi, multiple citizens went public with similar stories. Asian Image reported that the taxi has now been recovered, but law enforcement is still on the lookout for the thief.
If it needs to be said: don’t do Grand Theft Auto shit in real life.
Todd Mitchell is a US Midwest-based comedy writer and game developer with bylines at Weekly Humorist, Fanbyte, Slackjaw, End of the Bench Sports, and more. He’s the author of Inside Video Game Creation, the founder of CodeWritePlay, and host of the GameDev Breakdown podcast. Follow him on Twitter @Mechatodzilla.