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Brooklyn Pol: NYPD’s Enforcement of ‘Jaywalking’ is a ‘Racial Injustice’

The NYPD is "unfairly targeting Black and Hispanic individuals," says a Brooklyn Council member, who wants to change that.

Photo: Ibrahim Hersi|

Jaywalking — everyone does it (even white people, though they are almost never ticketed).

The NYPD must be forced to stop ticketing pedestrians who cross against traffic signals because cops are currently "unfairly targeting Black and Hispanic individuals," says a Brooklyn Council member who wants to end enforcement of so-called "jaywalking."

Council Member Mercedes Narcisse, whose bill to decriminalize the practice will get its first hearing on Tuesday before the transportation committee, said the city's own statistics show that the NYPD is unjustly and selectively enforcing the "crime."

In 2023, of the 463 summonses written for crossing a street against a signal, 92 percent, were written to Blacks or Latinos. In the first three months of 2024, according to new numbers crunched by Streetsblog, 96.5 percent of the 227 of the tickets where the race of the perpetrator was known were handed to Blacks or Latinos.

Council Member Mercedes NarcissePhoto: NYC Council

"The recent statistics for jaywalking tickets from January to March 2024 paint a troubling picture of racial disparities," Narcisse told Streetsblog in a statement. "This makes it abundantly clear that the current enforcement of jaywalking laws disproportionately affects communities of color. Jaywalking should not be a criminal matter that disproportionately impacts certain groups based on race or ethnicity.

"Decriminalizing jaywalking is a step towards addressing these injustices. By removing the criminal penalties associated with jaywalking, we can redirect police resources to more pressing public safety concerns," she added. "I’ve never heard a New Yorker exclaim, 'I’m so glad they caught that jaywalker.'”

Here's a breakdown of numbers for the first three months of 2024:

  • 228 tickets, which cost $250, were written in total
  • 227 listed the race of the person ticketed. Of those:
    • 134 (or 59 percent) were written to a Black pedestrian.
    • 22 (or 9.7 percent) were written to a person listed as Black Hispanic.
    • 63 (or 27.7 percent) were written to a white Hispanic person.
    • 7 tickets (or 3 percent) were written to white pedestrians
    • 1 ticket (or less than half a percent) was written to an Asian pedestrian

In other words, there were 156 tickets (68.7 percent) written to people listed as Black, who comprise 20 percent of the population. Or cut another way, 85 tickets (or 30.6 percent) of the tickets went to people listed as Hispanic, who comprise 28 percent of the population.

In total, Blacks and Latinos received 96.5 percent of the tickets, though they comprise just 49 percent of the population.

And the geographic breakdown also doesn't hold up to scrutiny, given how the almost universal practice of jaywalking by New Yorkers.

Only 34 of the city's 77 precincts wrote more than one jaywalking ticket in the first three months — 30 percent of which came from just four precincts:

  • The 115th (Queens): 25 tickets, 92 percent to Hispanics, even though Hispanics comprise 63 percent of the population.
  • The 84th (Brooklyn): 17 tickets, 88 percent to Blacks, even though Blacks comprise 10.3 percent of the population.
  • The 88th (Brooklyn): 14 tickets, 86 percent to Blacks, even though Blacks comprise 28 percent of the population.
  • The 60th (Brooklyn): 12 tickets, 100 percent to Blacks and Hispanics, even though those groups comprise just 32.4 percent of the population.

It's unclear what will happen to Narcisse's bill — it has just seven co-sponsors: Tiffany Cabán, Julie Won, Amanda Farías, Shahana Hanif, Diana Ayala, Shekar Krishnan and Sandy Nurse. A 2020 version of the bill died with only seven sponsors — but one of whom was current Council Speaker Adrienne Adams.

City Hall declined to comment, though a Department of Transportation spokesperson would only say that the agency is "reviewing" the years'-old effort. Narcisse was undeterred.

"My goal is to ensure that our streets are safe for all New Yorkers without unfairly targeting certain communities," she said. "This legislation is about promoting equity and fairness in our city’s policies and protecting the rights of all residents."

The City Council Transportation Committee will meet on Tuesday, June 25 at 1 p.m in the Council chambers at City Hall. For info, click here.

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