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Pols to NYPD: Stop Racist ‘Jaywalking’ Tickets

1:48 PM EST on January 20, 2020

“Jaywalking” — everyone does it. So why are the vast majority of tickets written to blacks and Hispanics?

New York City's political establishment has spoken: The NYPD must end its racist enforcement of "jaywalking."

In the wake of Streetblog's bombshell analysis earlier this month, at least five key lawmakers have spoken out against the racially tainted manner in which NYPD officers hand out tickets to pedestrians who cross against the traffic light.

Of the 316 "jaywalking" tickets handed out in the first nine months of last year, 89.5 percent went to blacks and Hispanics.

"Punishing pedestrians and targeting communities of color is no way to make our city safer," tweeted Council Speaker Corey Johnson, adding that racially biased ticketing is "not how we build a positive relationship between police and the communities that have borne the brunt of overpolicing."

Comptroller Scott Stringer, who is Johnson's potential rival for the mayoralty next year, added that he found the summons numbers "alarming."

"Unequal law enforcement is unjust law enforcement—and it’s communities of color who pay the price," Stringer said.

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams took to Facebook to express his concern.

"Adding to the list of things not to do while being a person of more color: crossing the street," he said. "Unnecessary and racially biased summonses disrupt people's lives and expose undocumented people to great risk. These numbers must change."

Other lawmakers, including State Senator Mike Gianaris and Assembly Member Yuh Line Niou, praised Streetsblog's attention to the issue.

Kang Wong could get a year in jail for a jaywalking stop that resulted in his arrest. With nine pedestrians and a cyclist killed in 2014, no motorists were charged by NYPD or city DAs for taking a life. Photo: New York Post
Kang Wong was roughed up after allegedly jaywalking

Niou's tweet referred to a senior citizen who was beaten by several cops after he was stopped for "jaywalking," but then did not understand what the officers were saying to him — a case that represents a different example of insensitive policing. Overall, the Streetsblog story focused on the apparent bias of NYPD officers, who wrote 316 jaywalking tickets last year, 284 of which, or 89.5 percent, were issued to blacks and Hispanics, even though people of all races, classes, creeds, national origins and religions are equally likely to cross a street against a traffic signal.

The story also revealed that cops use jaywalking tickets to harass young people. More than half of the tickets — 167, or 53 percent — were issued to people under 25, with 44 percent of the tickets going to people aged 18 to 25, even though that group comprises just 7 percent of the population.

It is unclear if any of the lawmakers who objected will actually do anything about the NYPD's approach to pedestrian enforcement — a practice of criminalizing walking that dates back to efforts by the automobile industry to avoid blame when drivers killed pedestrians in the early days of the auto era.

The NYPD declined to comment for the original story and declined to comment for this one, too. City Hall also offered no response. (City offices are technically closed on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but we have been receiving other communication from the NYPD and other agencies today.)

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