Skip to Content
Streetsblog New York City home
Streetsblog New York City home
Log In

Pols to NYPD: Stop Racist ‘Jaywalking’ Tickets

“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
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

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.)

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog New York City

New York City Roadway at Risk of Dramatic Decline As Deadline Looms

Fewer than two dozen restaurants are in the pipeline for roadside seating, according to public records.

July 12, 2024

Opinion: Congestion Pricing Is A Compromise

Alternatives paths to cut congestion and pollution and fund the MTA make congestion tolls look like a cheap parlor trick.

July 12, 2024

Friday’s Headlines: Department of Victim Blaming Edition

Traffic deaths in the city are on pace to reach their highest number since at least 2013 — and DOT is reportedly blaming "jaywalking." Plus more news.

July 12, 2024

‘Suburban’ Queens Stalwarts Take Hard Line Against Housing — To Rest of City’s Detriment

“That's what they bought in the suburbs for, that's why they raised their family in the suburbs," said Council Member Joann Ariola, whose district contains 14 subway stations.

July 11, 2024

DOT Seeks New Camera Enforcement Contract to Better Catch Obscured License Plates

The city's current contractor has let hundreds of thousands of reckless drivers off the hook.

July 11, 2024
See all posts