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ON THE BIAS: NYPD’s ‘Walking While Black’ Ticketing Continues

NYPD officers wrote 467 summonses for crossing mid-block or against the light — and 92 percent went to Blacks or Latinos. The NYPD declined to comment.

The NYPD’s well-documented history of disproportionately ticketing pedestrians of color for allegedly crossing against a traffic signal — known to some as "jaywalking" — continued in 2023, the latest data show.

Over the full calendar year, NYPD officers wrote 467 summonses for violating Section 4-04 of the state's Vehicle and Traffic Law, which bars pedestrians of any race from crossing mid-block or against the light.

Of the 463 summonses for which race was known, 426 summonses, or 92 percent, were written to Blacks or Latinos. Only 27 tickets, or fewer than 6 percent, were issued to people identified as non-Hispanic whites.

Blacks and Hispanics comprise about 55 percent of the population, and there is no evidence that they cross roadways illegally out of proportion to their population. (Map below shows jaywalking tickets by precinct, with labels for the race of the accused.)

Breaking down the findings even further:

  • Black residents received 59 percent of the jaywalking tickets, though Blacks comprise just 21 percent of the population of the city.
  • Hispanic residents, who are listed as Black or white, received 33 percent of the tickets, though they comprise 29 percent of the population.
  • Whites received 5.9 percent of the tickets even though they are 32 percent of the population.

The findings for 2023 follow similarly disproportionate findings by Streetsblog in previous years:

  • In 2019, 90 percent of the 397 tickets were written to Blacks or Latinos.
  • In the first quarter of 2020, 99 percent of the 79 tickets for which a race was listed went to black or Hispanics.

It's worth noting that not all NYPD precinct commanders care about "jaywalking." According to the city's database of summonses, only 47 of the city's 77 precincts registered an illegal crossing ticket at all in 2023.

But the commanders who do fight "jaywalking" fight it hard — and in extremely questionable ways:

  • The 33rd Precinct in Washington Heights wrote a whopping 38 jaywalking summonses last year. All but one — or 97.3 percent — went to a person of color.
  • The 79th Precinct in central Brooklyn wrote 36 tickets. Every single one of them went to a Black or Hispanic person.
  • The 28th Precinct in Upper Manhattan wrote 29 tickets. Every single one of them went to a Black or Hispanic person.

Over the years, lawmakers have sought to decriminalize jaywalking, especially after Streetsblog's exposés on the racial bias in ticketing. Most recently, Council Member Mercedes Narcisse of Brooklyn drafted a bill that would "permit pedestrians to legally cross a roadway at any point, including outside of a marked or unmarked crosswalk, and allow for crossing against traffic signals." The goal, Narcisse said, was to "legalize the activity commonly referred to as 'jaywalking' and specify that no penalties can be imposed for jaywalking."

The bill has only eight additional co-sponsors — a tiny amount in the 51-member legislature — perhaps because the New York Post added it to its growing list of culture war grievances, calling it "yet another step in the wrong direction for the crime-plagued Big Apple." (The article claimed that the bill's supporters "believe" that there is biased enforcement by cops, though the paper admitted that Section 4-04 is "a law nearly every New Yorker breaks.")

The NYPD's 86-person press office did not respond to a request for comment.

How our cartoonist saw the situation.File cartoon: Bill Roundy

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