STREETSBLOG GETS ACTION: Council Will Probe NYPD’s Biased ‘Jaywalking’ Enforcement

Everyone jaywalks but mostly only Blacks and Latinos are charged. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
Everyone jaywalks but mostly only Blacks and Latinos are charged. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

Walk this way!

The City Council will investigate whether the NYPD is conducting racially biased harassment of blacks and Latinos, who received 90 percent of all “jaywalking” tickets issued by cops last year.

Council Speaker Corey Johnson told reporters on Monday said that lawmakers would demand answers after Streetsblog revealed the racial inequity in “illegal crossing” tickets in two bombshell stories.

“We’re going figure out what this data actually means,” said Johnson, who had tweeted his concern and commented publicly after reading our coverage of the disproportionate enforcement against blacks and Hispanics. “We know people of color are not jaywalking more than white people, so that shows a disproportionate level of policing in that community, and that’s what we’re gonna look at moving forward.”

The Speaker was one of many New York politicians who expressed outrage after Streetsblog’s initial report on the NYPD’s racially biased jaywalking enforcement, which covered the first three-quarters of 2019. So far, no one with any power has actually proposed a plan to either eliminate “illegal crossing” tickets altogether — there were only 397 last year, after all — or rein in the NYPD’s inherent bias, given that 354 of those tickets went to blacks and Hispanics.

The NYPD has said it gives officers the discretion to write the tickets if they see something egregious. The agency also says that “jaywalking” — which was criminalized only after lobbying by the then-young car industry — is not widely enforced.

Indeed, it is not: As Streetsblog reported, three precincts in the Bronx handed out almost 40 percent of tickets to rule-breaking pedestrians in 2019, while officers in half of the city’s precincts — including many in Manhattan, where crossing against a light happens hundreds of thousands of times a day — didn’t write a single jaywalking ticket last year.

The Streetsblog stories revealed that tickets aren’t even given out in Vision Zero hot spots around the city, which could at least provide some justification for punishing rogue walkers.

City & State NY is hosting a full day New York in Transit summit on Jan. 30 at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. This summit will bring together experts to assess the current state of New York’s transportation systems, break down recent legislative actions, and look towards the future of all things coming and going in New York. Join Keynote Speaker Polly Trottenberg, commissioner of the NYC Department of Transportation, along with agency leaders, elected officials, and advocates. Use the code STREETSBLOG for a 25-percent discount when you RSVP here!