Taxi bosses say rising numbers of passengers are ditching cabs without paying and then turning violent.

Last year more than 150 drivers were attacked in Brighton and Hove after customers revealed they had no money to pay the fare.

Firms want Brighton and Hove City Council to pay for signs in every car to remind passengers not to assault their cabbie.

Andy Cheesman, from the Brighton and Hove Taxi Forum, said the problem – called “bilking” – had become worse in recent years.

He said: “It must be something to do with the state of the economy.

“People get into the car but at the end of the journey they just say they haven’t got any money.”

Mr Cheesman said penniless passengers often turned nasty when confronted by their driver.

He said: “They’re out of their brains half the time. They’ve spent their money on booze and drugs.

“If you’re lucky they’ll just get out and run. If you’re unlucky there’s a confrontation and you might just get a punch on the nose. That happens about three or four times a week.

“If you’re very unlucky you can get a real kicking.”

In 2010 Brighton and Hove City Council ordered drivers to install CCTV cameras in every car to improve safety.

Last June a taxi was shot at with an air rifle after a gang of men refused to pay and the driver was also threatened with a knife – all of which was caught on camera.

CCTV also recorded a driver being hit with a hammer and a group of young people who began throwing stones at a cabbie after they said they had no money for the fare.

In February a taxi driver from Newhaven was dragged from his taxi and beaten by four passengers after picking them up in West Street, Brighton.

At a taxi forum meeting last week, firms told the council they wanted “more support”.

They said the local authority should now install signs in every cab that “clearly describe the various offences that could be committed by a passenger against a driver”.

But Mr Cheesman said: “It’s very difficult to stop it unless you have a security guard in the back of every cab and obviously that’s not practical.”

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