State Watch

Kansas City officials seek to end jaywalking penalties noting racial disparity in citations

A Kansas City, Mo., city council committee on Wednesday moved forward legislation that would end penalties for jaywalking and other pedestrian offenses that local leaders, including Mayor Quinton Lucas (D), have said disproportionately target people of color. 

The changes were officially recommended by the city council’s Transportation, Infrastructure and Operations Committee, including the repeal of an ordinance that imposed penalties for people walking through the street outside of a crosswalk. 

The legislation also includes an amendment to an ordinance that allowed people to be ticketed for “dirty” cars or bicycles that carried mud or litter, and proposes that this only apply to vehicles other than “bicycles and electric micromobility devices under 50cc horsepower.” 

The legislation is now set to be heard before the full Kansas City Council on Thursday, according to The Kansas City Star

The committee in its proposal specifically argued that tickets for jaywalking can “expose individuals to unnecessary interactions with police and studies have shown jaywalking and similar laws are disproportionately enforced on communities of color.” 

Lucas on Wednesday tweeted his support for the changes, writing, “the data on disparities in arrests over the years shows serious concerns and shows why we need to decriminalize daily life and found alternatives for petty offenses.” 

The mayor’s general legal counsel, Jane Brown, told the Star that of the 123 citations issued in Kansas City for jaywalking over the past three years, 65 percent were issued to Black residents, compared to 34 percent written for white people.  

This ratio comes despite the fact that Black people make up just 30 percent of Kansas City’s population, with roughly 55 percent white, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau

Men were also disproportionately issued jaywalking tickets in Kansas City, at 83 percent, when compared to women, 16 percent. 

In terms of Kansas City’s overall pedestrian violations, about 54 percent were issued to Black people, and 45 percent to white citizens, according to Brown. 

Local organizations submitted testimony to the city council committee in support of the legislative changes, with Andrea Clark of KC Healthy Kids writing that measures on jaywalking and other pedestrian offenses are more likely to harm minority communities than actually lead to fewer public safety accidents. 

“It is unreasonable to punish people for walking in the street when many neighborhoods lack safe and accessible sidewalks, especially in under-resourced and Black and Brown communities,” Clark wrote, according to the Star. 

Clark argued that the city should instead invest more in the revitalization of streets and public spaces for all community members.

Tags communities of color crosswalk kansas city Missouri Pedestrian Pedestrian crossing Quinton Lucas Racial disparities
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