Chicago has about 300 traffic cameras positioned around the city, and they're evenly disbursed among Black, Hispanic, and white communities. It's one of the largest such programs in the country, and advocates say this "race-neutral" approach to issuing tickets is the way to go. But as ProPublica reports, there's a hitch to the "race-neutral" part. Between 2015 and 2019, drivers who live in predominantly Black and Hispanic ZIP codes got tickets at twice the rate of those from white areas. As it turns out, this type of disparity is not uncommon. Rochester, NY, and Miami ended their red-light camera programs because low-income neighborhoods received a disproportionate share of tickets, and officials decided the economic harm to households outweighed any safety benefits. Washington, DC, is considering doing the same.
The story explores some potential reasons behind what's happening in Chicago. For example, in one low-income neighborhood, a camera is placed near a steel plant on a busy four-lane road. By contrast, in an affluent, mostly white neighborhood 20 miles away, a camera is placed on a two-lane road that has a concrete pedestrian island and brightly painted cross-walks. Which camera is going to dispense more tickets? Black neighborhoods are also more likely to be located near expressway ramps, another factor that results in more tickets. Meanwhile, the racial disparity in tickets has widened during the pandemic, likely because Black and Latino workers are less likely to have jobs that allow them to work remotely. Read the full story, which notes the complicating factor that other municipalities are moving toward such cameras to reduce the number of in-person traffic stops. (Read more Longform stories.)