Episode 73: Seymour Josephson, Rideshare Safety
Samantha Josephson (at left) and her family.
In this episode, Karen speaks with Seymour Josephson, the father of Samantha Josephson, a 21-year-old senior at the University of South Carolina who, on March 29, 2019, was kidnapped and murdered when she was targeted by a person posing as a rideshare driver. Immediately following this unspeakable tragedy, Seymour and Samantha’s mom, Marci Josephson, set out to educate others on the importance of rideshare safety so that no other family would have to suffer this kind of loss.
Intro Voices 00:04
Where do I go? It only happened once. I think I was singled out. The phone calls began about one month ago. What is hazing? Something happened to me when I was younger. I'm worried about my safety. He said he was sorry. Can someone help me? Where can I get help? Can someone help me? This is You Matter, a podcast for the NYU community developed by the Department of Campus Safety.
Karen Ortman 00:36
Hi, everyone, and welcome back to You Matter, a podcast created to teach, inspire and motivate members of the NYU community who have been victimized in some form or fashion and to identify resources both on and off campus that can help. I am your host Karen Ortman, Associate Vice President of Campus Safety Operations at the Department of Campus Safety, and a retired law enforcement professional. Today I welcome Seymour Josephson, the father of Samantha Josephson, a 21-year-old senior at the University of South Carolina, who on March 29, 2019, was kidnapped and murdered when she was targeted by a person posing as a rideshare driver. Immediately following this unspeakable tragedy, Seymour and Samantha's mom, Marcy Josephson set out to educate others on the importance of rideshare safety so that no other family would have to suffer this kind of loss. Seymour, welcome to You Matter.
Seymour Josephson 01:35
Thank you for having me.
Karen Ortman 01:38
I want to first start off by offering my sincerest condolences on the loss of Samantha, and I'm really grateful for having the opportunity to talk to you today in educating our listeners. So thank you.
Seymour Josephson 01:51
Karen Ortman 01:52
Describe Samantha as she was in life prior to March 29, 2019.
Seymour Josephson 02:01
So this, this will get me, It gets me every single time. Samantha was an extremely bright, driven, funny, goofy, and I mean that in a good way goofy; she was always laughing. She always lit up the room. She was probably one of the most honest people I've ever come across. A great example would be, well there's two great examples that will explain who Samantha was. One would be, we would go shopping, they always would come to me to go shopping if their mother didn't want to go for whatever reason. We would go shopping and I'm like, alright, just get whatever you want. You want that? Get that, get that, get that. I would, I never would say no to my kids. So we would be driving home and I'm like, all right, we can't tell mom everything that we did and what we got. Don't tell her. We walk through the front door. Mom, I'm not supposed to tell you, but this is what we got. Throw me right under the bus. The other, I think which explains who Samantha is, the type of person that she is, was at the vigil that we had here in Robins. There were probably about 10 or 12 girls that got up to speak and a couple other ones that did not get up to speak, each one of them said that Samantha was my best friend. Each one of them would say no, she's my best friend - no, she's my best friend. The type of person that she was, she would give you her whole attention on to that particular person, there was nothing that would distract her. She looked at them as if they were her best friend, every single one of them. And every single one of them looked at her that way, because she was that most authentic, funny, lit up the room. A vivacious girl, she was just tremendous.
Karen Ortman 04:43
She sounds very special. You mentioned taking them shopping. Who is them?
Seymour Josephson 04:54
So, Sydney, Samantha has a sister named Sydney who was 20 months older, one year apart in school. Sydney went to University of Delaware, Samantha went to University of South Carolina, and when everything happened, Sydney went back to get her accelerated degree from Drexel for nursing.
Karen Ortman 05:21
Seymour Josephson 05:22
So she's a nurse now. She's a frontline worker, a very special young lady.
Karen Ortman 05:27
Yeah. Both your girls.
Seymour Josephson 05:29
Karen Ortman 05:30
Very special. Tell me about Samantha as a child.
Seymour Josephson 05:37
I always played sports growing up, and I always wanted my girls to be active, so my girls were always very active. Samantha played soccer and basketball. She did acting, she did dance; she was horrible at dance, she had two left feet but she enjoyed it. She was not a good athlete, but she enjoyed it. She was there for the social aspect. She was very dramatic, and that's the acting part she wanted to do. I mean, she didn't hold back. She would get hurt, she'd be crying, screaming, and I'm like, Sam, stop, aren't you embarrassed? She goes, No.
Karen Ortman 06:34
She was authentic, even as a child?
Seymour Josephson 06:37
Karen Ortman 06:37
That's very cool. So she grew up along with Sydney. They grew up in Robbinsville?
Seymour Josephson 06:46
Karen Ortman 06:47
Robbinsville High School?
Seymour Josephson 06:49
Yeah, we're, as I say, in the bubble. Our community at the time was the smallest, though still small relatively. It's a small, great community that pulls tight. that community, for us for the past two years, has been nothing but superb from the police department, to the mayor, the township, everyone, the residents, the neighbors have all been there for us.
Karen Ortman 07:24
That's great. At some point, Samantha was deciding on a college, was University of South Carolina her first choice?
Seymour Josephson 07:36
Yep. It was actually her sister's probably as well. That's how she found it and fell in love with it. We went down there to look at it, and Sydney wanted to go there, but she had a couple of other scholarships, and one was to Delaware. When we were there Samantha fell in love with it. You know, there was no turning back, she didn't want to go see any other schools.
Karen Ortman 08:09
Wow. So she went to University of South Carolina. What was her major?
Seymour Josephson 08:16
Karen Ortman 08:18
Okay, that's what mine was. And she was due to graduate in May of 2019?
Seymour Josephson 08:30
Karen Ortman 08:31
Did Samantha have any plans after the University of South Carolina, after her graduation?
Seymour Josephson 08:37
That summer she wanted to go to Israel. Her sister did that one winter., she did the trip for that. Then she was going to go head to law school.
Karen Ortman 09:03
And which law school was she going to?
Seymour Josephson 09:05
So she had a full scholarship to Drexel Law School. She had a scholarship to go to Rutgers, which was about half to three quarters of the tuition, but she had a full ride to Drexel.
Karen Ortman 09:20
Seymour Josephson 09:22
Yeah. Once you put her mind to it, she's studied her butt off for the LSATS, I mean, she studied! Obviously she did well.
Karen Ortman 09:32
Yeah. Okay. So, her plans were to go to Drexel Law School, but that, sadly, was not to be. Prior to March 29, 2019, when was the last time you spoke to Samantha?
Seymour Josephson 09:55
Karen Ortman 09:56
Seymour Josephson 09:58
Yep. For some reason her debit card, her card would never work on the Uber. I think she was probably just playing me, but she didn't want the charge, so she would always call me ad ask, can I use your credit card again to take an Uber? So I'm like, alright, fine. This is your last time, but go ahead. I'm watching you. So yeah, that evening, that Thursday evening I was in contact with her.
Karen Ortman 10:41
And was the conversation about Uber?
Seymour Josephson 10:44
Yeah. Yeah. About using my credit card.
Karen Ortman 10:49
Yeah. Did she tell you where she was going that night?
Seymour Josephson 10:55
Just out with some friends at the bar. I took for granted that it was Five Points, because that's where all the kids hung out at the South Carolina University.
Karen Ortman 11:08
Okay. And five points is in proximity to where she was ultimately picked up.
Seymour Josephson 11:15
Well, yeah. That's where she was picked up at Five Points.
Karen Ortman 11:20
Okay. All right. So you spoke to her for the last time on March 29th, what happened after you spoke to her?
Seymour Josephson 11:36
That Friday, Marcy got a call from her boyfriend, Greg saying that, she's missing.
Karen Ortman 11:48
What time was that phone call?
Seymour Josephson 11:55
God, um 11:30/12 o'clock. Marcy calls me and said, did you speak to Greg? I said, no. She goes, he called and said that Samantha is missing. My heart dropped. I said get home now. Where was she? Marcy was at work at Hopewell Elementary. She's a speech and language therapist there. I said get home now, and she goes, why? And I'm like, we're going down there. It was just a reaction. I didn't know what was going on. I didn't know anything. I’m like, just get home.
Karen Ortman 12:48
Now based upon how you know your daughter and her and her personality, when you heard those words that Samantha's missing, did...
Seymour Josephson 12:58
I knew something was up, because that Friday afternoon after work, she was supposed to go to her boyfriend's. Typically, every morning Marcy texts the girls good morning. And typically, if Marcy does not check in and do that good morning, they will call and say what's going on? What's the matter? It was just, you know, hey, how are you, good morning. It was just something in me that said something is up.
Karen Ortman 13:37
You knew something was wrong?
Seymour Josephson 13:46
Yeah. We were supposed to surprise her. We were going down that's Saturday or Sunday; Sunday, down to the school for Sunday and Monday to be with her because, you know, we wanted to spend some more time. She was home that weekend before Drexel for student acceptance day, but we were going down. I just, there was just something in me that said, get home, we're leaving.
Karen Ortman 14:23
And Marcy did not hear from Samantha that morning.
Seymour Josephson 14:26
No, nobody heard from her.
Karen Ortman 14:28
Was she alarmed by that since they normally text in the morning?
Seymour Josephson 14:32
Um, she just thought that she, we knew that she had to work. We knew that she was working, so we just figured that she just got up and went to work and that was that. That she would you know, one or two o'clock, she would be texting or calling us.
Karen Ortman 14:49
Yeah. Okay. So Marcy comes home from work.
Seymour Josephson 14:56
She packs her bag, I throw it stuff in a bag. I don't even know what I threw in or whatever.
Karen Ortman 15:03
Did you call anybody down at University of South Carolina in the mean time?
Seymour Josephson 15:06
Yeah, so when we hung up, I called her roommates.
Karen Ortman 15:14
What did they do?
Seymour Josephson 15:16
I'm like, what is going on? What's happening? They said the police are there. I said, alright, so fill me in on what's going on. They did, and I said, put the police on the phone. At that time, we had another phone going, I actually used my daughter's phone to call in at that same time, since she used my credit card we were trying to see where she was within the Uber that night. I noticed that I had gotten a $5 charge from that night. We started trying to call into Uber to start trying to track her phone and trying to track the transaction. I was on the phone, one phone with the police, one phone with Uber. At the same time, the police were on the phone trying to get through Uber. This was all going on simultaneously, we were just trying to figure everything out, trying to track everything. Marcy got home, we packed a bag, I then hung up from Uber and then from - no, I did not hang up from Uber - I hung up from the police because we were on Sydney's phone. We jumped into the car and couldn't get anywhere with Uber, so I called the police back, and probably for the first hour of the ride down I was on the phone with the police.
Karen Ortman 17:12
What were they sharing with you up to that point?
Seymour Josephson 17:15
They really didn't have any information at that point. They were trying to track, they have a special number, the police to contact Uber with an emergency. They were trying to track, and there was nothing to track. Her phone was off. Her phone showed dead. We have fine your friends, and her was dead.
Karen Ortman 17:41
At what point did you let Sydney know what was going on? Well, she was standing right next to us in the beginning. She was home on a one week break from nursing school. I said you stay here, deal with the dog, we'll call you, and we'll fill you in with what's going on. So periodically, I would obviously call her. She ended up going over to one of my neighbor's house, who are one of our best friends. That evening, because it took us 11 hours to get down to South Carolina, I drove and I was on the phone on and off with the police, Sydney was over at my next door neighbors. My cousins were there. My sister showed up. My sister in law showed up. Um, I would say, probably six o'clock, I knew something was wrong. So she was home. How painful was that drive?
Seymour Josephson 19:02
As what you could expect?
Karen Ortman 19:04
Seymour Josephson 19:07
We had some people calling us saying, is this is true because it was on Facebook that Sam is missing. We had some friends that are involved in the police force that were calling us, and I had a cousin that knew the Attorney General down in South Carolina where they started getting the state police involved. On the way down he was calling me and giving me updates. Our next door neighbor's son was involved in Homeland Security and he had gotten involved and went back to the office doing trying to find...
Karen Ortman 19:49
Seymour Josephson 19:50
..he had a couple people in the office...
Karen Ortman 19:52
Sounds like all hands on deck here, you know?
Seymour Josephson 19:56
Karen Ortman 19:57
So at six o'clock, what changed?
Seymour Josephson 20:01
I got a phone call from the police of South Carolina in Colombia. We were in contact with them on and off on the way down. It was probably the second time they called and said, you know, what time are you planning to get here? What time do you think you'll be here? It was no information, but you know, that type of question, and not hearing from her for that long. My wife Marcy was very, obviously, very hopeful. I didn't say anything to her, but I just mumbled to myself, this is not good, this is not gonna end well. I don't know why or what, it was just a panic feeling, not hearing from her, the phones still being dead, and nobody could find her. Her boyfriend came in from Charleston, because he already had graduated, to look for her. That's just not Samantha, to go unchecked.
Karen Ortman 21:38
For that length of time.
Seymour Josephson 21:39
Yeah. Neither my kidsa are.
Karen Ortman 21:43
So at some point, you arrive...
Seymour Josephson 21:48
Karen Ortman 21:48
...at the University of South Carolina, or would you tell me where did you go?
Seymour Josephson 21:54
We went straight to the Columbia police department. We had called her roommates and Greg, told them where we were and that we're headed straight to the police department of Columbia by the football stadium and want you guys meet us down there. We got there, I guess that - I don't remember everything, it becomes a blur - but I think that one of the Captain's greeted us, brought us in, and brought us into a conference room. There were, I don't know, three or four people sitting there. One of the people sitting there had a jacket on with the title Coroner.
Karen Ortman 22:46
Oh, my God.
Seymour Josephson 22:47
It wasn't the smartest person there wearing that?
Karen Ortman 22:53
Seymour Josephson 22:57
They then proceeded to tell us that they believe that they found her body from all the descriptions that we were had given them. The kids were not in the room at the time, they weren't there yet. I know I flipped out. I know Marcy did. I know everybody did. Um, when the kids got their they brought them into separate rooms and started interviewing them.
Karen Ortman 23:44
Because at this point, you had no idea what happened.
Seymour Josephson 23:47
Everybody was a suspect, and they wanted to get information. They separated all them. Samantha's boyfriend, they grilled him for two hours. I told them 100% that he's not a suspect, he would never do anything like this. There's no way and they still kept them in the room for two hours. They interviewed, I can't remember how many, four - I think four or five of them came in. I wanted to tell them. I did not want it to come from them, because they, you know, I just felt that it needed to come from us. It needed to come from me. Somebody sitting there wearing a coroner's jacket is not, you know, it's cold, right. I didn't want it to come across that way. We actually called Greg's parents prior and told them and that they need to get there.
Karen Ortman 25:02
Did you ever learn what happened to Samantha?
Seymour Josephson 25:05
Yeah, so, when we were driving down, Greg and a couple of her roommates went down to Five Points, the bar that she was at and where she was picked up. They went to the bar and asked for the video, because there was outside videos around that area, very, there's a lot of cameras, there's a lot of videos on the bars for security reasons. It showed the car that Samantha got into, it showed that car circling twice in a circle to come around. Samantha had called for an Uber and literally just got into the car.
Karen Ortman 26:09
Believing that that was her Uber.
Seymour Josephson 26:12
She believed that was her Uber. At that point, it was too late, because the car was obviously looking for a victim was circling. She got in, the back doors were locked. Part of the problem is that on the app, it has a word, a black car, an Impala, a Black car, Ford, and my daughter didn't know the difference between a Ford and Chevy Impala. I think probably most kids, or even a lot of adults, don't know what kind of make a car is, you recognize, oh, it's a black car, it's a silver car, whatever. You take that for granted that that's your car, that's your Uber, or Lyft, or whatever rideshare vehicle you ordered. You think that's yours. We've always grown up teaching our kids, don't talk to strangers, don't get in cars with strangers and what she's doing and what we've done is just that, getting cars with strangers. That car, he was impersonating an Uber, he was looking for somebody to just to get in. It was two o'clock in the morning, she left early from her friends, the bars are open till three, but she had to go to work in the morning, so she was being responsible. So, she gets into the car, the back door, the child safety locks were on. They had a hard time tracking the car because of how they caught the license plate. South Carolina only has license plates on the back, they don't have it in the front. They're one of 19 states here that do not have front license plates. The light of the back of the car, and how the angle made it so they had a hard time tracking it throughout the city. They believe that she was probably murdered within a mile to two miles of Five Points and the university. She was found 60/65 miles from Columbia, South Carolina.
Karen Ortman 28:55
How long after her being picked up was she found?
Seymour Josephson 29:05
I believe that afternoon?
Karen Ortman 29:08
Seymour Josephson 29:10
There were two turkey farmers, I think they were going turkey hunting. They were walking across the field and they came across her.
Karen Ortman 29:26
The surveillance footage that I'm sure was shown all around the country of of Samantha getting in that car, as helpful as that was, in pursuit of the offender, how painful was that to watch broadcast constantly?
Seymour Josephson 29:51
It's painful every single day that I watch it. It's actually on our Foundation website of What's My Name? We use it as, what not to do, right? We use that part to show what happens. Every day that I look at it, every day that I talk about it, I cry.
Karen Ortman 30:25
I don't see how you wouldn't cry. I think anybody that watches that knowing what happens after she gets in that car would feel some sort of emotional, traumatic response to that. Which really goes to the credit of you and your wife Marcy for extending yourselves and your horrible situation to teach others.
Seymour Josephson 30:55
We just honestly, you know, I've made it my mission to educate the world on rideshare safety through our foundation, through public service announcements, through federal laws that we're trying to do, to whatever it is and whatever it will take. We're trying to create safety enforcing the rideshare companies to be safer and create technology, these are technology companies, and we're trying to force them to be safe. Be safer.
Karen Ortman 31:38
Right. So, before we get into the ways in which you've turned this heartbreak into service for others, let's talk about Samantha's funeral and the huge response from the community.
Seymour Josephson 31:58
Down in South Carolina, we had a bond hearing, a bill hearing. There was a group of us, some of my cousin's flew down, Sydney flew down the next morning, a couple of our friends, Marcy's friends flew down, my sister came up from Atlanta. There was probably about, I don't know, 10 of us, and we had a hearing for the bond. On the way back, my cousin goes, you know, we got to start thinking about the funeral Seymour. I'm like, yeah, you know, whatever, it’s you know, it's whatever it is. They're like we have to order food, we have to do this, we have to do that. I go, well, we'll just have it at the cemetery. They're like, no, it's not going to be big enough, the chapel will only hold like 50 people. I'm like, yeah, so what, so what if there's a couple people standing outside, that's fine.
Karen Ortman 33:13
You had no idea. You had no idea the response.
Seymour Josephson 33:19
I had no clue. I didn't think anything of it. We went back and forth, we I fought. I'm like, there's no way I'm gonna have that many people. They're like no, there'll be a couple 100. So we went through a different couple different places. Then, where my girls were Bar Mitzvah’d together at the temple here, because we're Jewish, the Cantor called me. He actually lived right around the corner from me, and he says, if there's anything we can do let me know. That next day we were still trying to figure out where to do it, and what's the best place, so I called him and asked him if we would be able to have the service there at their temple. They were gracious and they opened it up. It was a much larger temple; I think it holds like 1000 people. They came and met us at our house. I didn't even know that this was national television. When we came home, I had the police sitting at my front driveway, because people were banging on our doors from different news organizations trying to get interviews and so the police were sitting there getting them off and keeping them away. We had no idea. We had no idea that when we pulled up in the car to the temple, the synagogue where the service was, how many cars and how far people were parked from the temple. They closed roads for people to park. The cars were three, four, wide. I'm like, this is crazy. I was not expecting that.
Karen Ortman 35:42
Then there was the media coverage for the funeral as well.
Seymour Josephson 35:45
Yeah, the media kept on hounding us, hounding me. I had my cousin go out and speak to them and give a statement, thinking at the time that would suffice, it didn't. Then, we went from the temple to the cemetery, and my cousin who arranged it all, one of my cousins, you had to go through several different towns in order to get where the cemetery was, the state police, local police shut the roads down for everybody to go through. I mean, I have no idea how many people were at the cemetery. When we came home from South Carolina, there were people in my yard setting up tents, setting up tables, port-a-johns...
Karen Ortman 37:02
That's so nice.
Seymour Josephson 37:07
I mean everybody...we had no clue. Somebody came in and got somebody to do the cleaning of the house, the cleaning of outside. I mean, we...
Karen Ortman 37:19
A lot of support.
Seymour Josephson 37:20
It was tremendous, I mean, we wouldn’t have done it without everybody.
Karen Ortman 37:24
Yeah. And after that agonizing experience of losing your daughter, burying your daughter, you have somehow managed to turn that grief into real advocacy on behalf of rideshare safety. Tell me about #WHATSMYNAME Foundation.
Seymour Josephson 37:56
So somebody actually came up with it down in South Carolina, we just took it and ran with it. When I was making it my mission, when I got up to speak I'd put up the visuals. I wanted to make sure that this doesn't happened to anyone again. So, the foundation of #WHATSMYNAME was really based off of just asking the driver before you get into their car, ask, What's my name? Don't tell them. Don't ask them, are you here for Seymour? Are you here for Karen? Asked the driver what your name is, because they know it.
Karen Ortman 38:43
They should know it.
Seymour Josephson 38:44
Yes. So that's where that based off of. The SAMI acronym as well, somebody else, a friend of hers made plaques down at all the bars down in five points, the Stop.Ask.Match.Inform. We took that and with feedback from law enforcement, increased it. What a Stop mean? What is Ask mean? What is Match mean? What does Inform mean. We did all that trying to create a safety campaign within the foundation. The foundation is really about educating the world on rideshare safety, and in return, we have given back scholarships to local seniors here in this area. This year alone, I think we're giving 11 or 12 High School scholarships to seniors.
Karen Ortman 39:57
What's the criteria for the scholarship?
Seymour Josephson 40:00
It's really about Samantha. Like, we didn't want somebody that is a 4.0, or is an all-state soccer player. We want somebody like her, Samantha struggled in high school and middle school until she was able to get focused. She only played sports because it was her friends, she wanted to be with her friends you know, she wasn't a starter. She played AAU basketball, she played travel soccer. But, you know, she...
Karen Ortman 40:39
She enjoyed life.
Seymour Josephson 40:41
She enjoyed life. She made the other kids on the team laugh...
Karen Ortman 40:44
Seymour Josephson 40:45
...and enjoy, and lighten up. She was never the best, and that's part of the scholarship requirement, that I struggle to do this, I struggled to play sports, I was never the best at but I enjoyed it, I did it for friends, I did my community work and I enjoyed this, and those type of things. We don't want a 4.0, we don't want, again, that all American. Anybody can be that, right? They already get scholarships, or whatever. We wanted...
Karen Ortman 41:24
The kid who struggled.
Seymour Josephson 41:26
Yeah, we want the special kid.
Karen Ortman 41:28
Yeah. I think that's wonderful. What legal changes have been made as a result of this?
Seymour Josephson 41:37
So, New Jersey has probably the best, as of today, the best laws around rideshare safety. They require, if you're going to use a rideshare vehicle in New Jersey, a QR code. You put your phone up to the car, your phone will vibrate and say, yep, that's my ride. So it's that confirmation.
Karen Ortman 42:03
So what do you have to download on your phone for that QR code to respond?
Seymour Josephson 42:10
It should be right through the app already, you know, from the camera...
Karen Ortman 42:15
A rideshare app?
Seymour Josephson 42:22
A rideshare car will have a QR code on it.
Karen Ortman 42:25
Seymour Josephson 42:28
New Jersey has the best of that. Now, there's other states that have done other things from South Carolina, North Carolina, of making signs illegal, to making requirements, things of that nature all around, they're called Sami's Law. We are still trying to create a federal law, that bill is actually in the house right now sitting with Speaker Pelosi's office. It's sitting for feedback from the Department of Transportation. We brought Uber and Lyft into the conversation, into the negotiations to get their feedback and to get their approval. The first part of the law is really based upon technology. We want to make sure that the ride is confirmed before getting into the car, because what happened to Samantha when she got into the car, it was too late.
Karen Ortman 43:41
Yeah. Do you think that it is safe to use Uber and Lyft in 2021?
Seymour Josephson 43:54
I think it is if you do if you do the steps, right; matching the license plate, matching the car, asking the driver What's my name? You know, could there still be an incident? Absolutely. And it goes for the driver as well, even though they think they have a good passenger, something could happen to them, to the driver. I will tell you that we've received many, many emails from them and confirmation that SAMI, and them going through it, that that it's helped. It's actually saved them. I got an email from a 30-year-old from Salt Lake that they were waiting to get picked up from a car, and a car comes up and he goes, I'm your Uber. She went and checked the license plate, and the car, and asked my name. he didn't know and he says, just get into the car. She goes, no, you're not my car and she, you know, stepped back, and finally the car drove off. She wrote me saying, this is step by step of what transpired and said, thank you.
Karen Ortman 45:28
That is a really impactful.
Seymour Josephson 45:31
And this wasn't a kid, it was a 30 something year old.
Karen Ortman 45:33
Yeah. Are you and your family, your daughter comfortable using rideshare?
Seymour Josephson 45:41
So I've taken one ride share in the last two years. There was actually a group of us because we were at a concert, Hootie and the Blowfish. We were backstage talking to them and everything closed down, so we had a call an Uber to take us back. It was probably I think, six of us, and I will tell you that I questioned that drivers every turn.
Karen Ortman 46:16
I believe you. And how did your driver respond?
Seymour Josephson 46:21
He was a little bit taken aback, but I really didn't care.
Karen Ortman 46:26
Overall, particularly in light of the work that you have done regarding educating the public, do you think that it's a worthwhile means of transportation?
Seymour Josephson 46:45
Yeah, I think that there's a call for it, right. I think that there's the ability to have it and I think there is definitely a way increase their safety. It's just, do they want to do that? Do they want to do the things necessary to be safe, right? Part of that will come from the public forcing them. I can only do so much. The federal laws, hopefully, will happen within the next year, but it really needs to happen and be forced by the public. Uber did a study in 2016 and 2017, they had over 6000 incidents reported; just reported.
Karen Ortman 47:40
And what about those that are not reported?
Seymour Josephson 47:43
Yeah, yeah. They had 19 deaths in that two year period of 16 and 17. Samantha happened in 2019, so what happened in 18? And what happened, you know, later in 2019?
Karen Ortman 48:01
So when we talk about deaths, are we talking about murders?
Seymour Josephson 48:05
Karen Ortman 48:06
Seymour Josephson 48:08
Karen Ortman 48:10
It's not acceptable.
Seymour Josephson 48:12
Once is not acceptable! You're absolutely right. And if it's happened one time, or two times, and these companies haven't done the necessary steps to protect the public in a better fashion than what they have, shame on them. I'll tell them, I have no problem telling each of the CEOs, and I've been on the phone with the CEOs of both companies of Uber and Lyft. You know it's...shame on them.
Karen Ortman 48:50
Yeah, absolutely. Are you continuing to speak to college students and others, even today?
Seymour Josephson 49:00
I am. Just a couple of weeks ago, I actually spoke to the University of South Carolina students. We showed a video to some high school students earlier this week. We are scheduling tours for September. The foundation actually has partnered with Uber and Lyft to go to different colleges.
Karen Ortman 49:26
Seymour Josephson 49:28
We've partnered with one of the largest malls or destinations in North America, in North Jersey, The American Dream, where we're going to have a press conference with them all about safety. I've met with all of New Jersey's prosecutors, the head prosecutors for each of the New Jersey's 21 counties, and each county has that lead prosecutor and I've presented to them, each of them, and to the Attorney General. I have spoken to police chiefs in South Carolina, North Carolina, Delaware, New Jersey, and I'm scheduled to go meet with some police chiefs in New Jersey next month in May., as you know, COVID has put a hindrance on it, like it has with many people and many industries and many businesses. We are starting to pick back up and we've started to get some traction and of doing some speaking and promoting at colleges. SUNY Purchase we did, and there's many more that we're going to do and we have done, and public service announcements that we're in the middle of of doing right now.
Karen Ortman 51:04
Seymour Josephson 51:04
Trying to get some entertainers and singers and professional athletes involved.
Karen Ortman 51:10
Oh, good. If anybody listening has an interest in having you speak at their college or university, or some other community organization, what is the best way to contact you?
Seymour Josephson 51:28
So you can go through our foundation whatsmyname.org, or my email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Karen Ortman 51:42
Seymour Josephson 51:43
That's right on the website as well. You can contact me and it goes right to me, and I'll respond back to you.
Karen Ortman 51:51
Okay. Is there anything that I haven't asked you that you would like to share?
Seymour Josephson 51:59
Again, I think what's on the apps of today, of having a license plate, having the make and the model of the car, having the driver; those are all good things. Having the SAMI acronym, the signs as a reminder, and if we can ingrain it as a young kid becomes an adult and so forth of the Stop.Ask.Match and Inform, I think it becomes much safer. I will tell you that Uber today has an opt-in, which we're trying to make as a permanent, or basic functionality of the app, is a four-digit PIN. I know next month they are launching in May a new update, it's supposedly a safer opt-in, Ultrasonic. What Lyft is doing, they're going to be doing something totally different, and that's okay, as long as they're doing a confirmation before you get into the car. That's what this is all based upon, the four-digit PIN does that to a great degree. The ultrasonic waves will do that as well.
Karen Ortman 53:34
And how does the ultrasonic waves...?
Seymour Josephson 53:38
I don't know. So, as a car pulls up and as the passenger starts walking up, the waves of the app from his phone or her phone hits the passengers phone and it will tur, I don't know if there's a checkmark, or green, or your phone will vibrate? Okay. And that's like the four digit pin you put the pin in and your phone will vibrate, that's your confirmation. That's your handshake, for lack of better words.
Karen Ortman 54:13
Got it? Well, I thank you Seymour. And, I thank your wife Marcy for everything that you are all doing to make our community, and in particular, our kids at colleges and universities safer. It's very much appreciated. And, I appreciate you sharing your story of Samantha's life. I can't imagine the grief and the sorrow, but I praise you for the work that you do.
Seymour Josephson 54:49
Thank you, every day is a challenge.
Karen Ortman 54:53
I'm sure. Thank you again to my guest Seymour, and to all of our listeners for joining us for today's episode of You Matter if any information presented was triggering or disturbing, please feel free to contact the Wellness Exchange at 212-443-9999 or NYU's Department of Campus Safety and their Victim Services Unit at 212-998-2222. Please share, like, and subscribe to You Matter on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Tune in or Spotify.