The holidays must be a lucrative time for drivers who lure passengers into their unlicensed taxis at airports, but the Port Authority is making it tough for them this year. Yesterday Queens DA Richard Brown announced [pdf] that a crackdown on unlicensed taxi drivers has resulted in 18 arrests at JFK and LaGuardia. The arrests come a month after Governor Paterson signed a bill increasing penalties for unlawfully soliciting ground transportation at an airport, making it a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,250.

In June, a group of French tourists got taken on a dangerous, high-speed chase when cops moved in on one of the illegal livery van drivers; the incident underscored the risks of taking a ride from unlicensed drivers, who sometimes charge unsuspecting tourists $120 a pop for a trip from the airports to Manhattan. But the Post notes that there are fewer plainclothes police patrolling JFK for taxi hustlers because of Port Authority budget cuts. And one source tells the tabloid that before yesterday's press conference at JFK to announce the crackdown, Port Authority officials had to call in officers to clear the area of taxi hustlers.