Disparity in minorities stopped by police greater in majority-white areas August 10, 2016

Andrew Ba Tran
Data Editor

Minority drivers are stopped by police in neighborhoods at an out-of-proportion rate compared to the population that lives there.

The average gap between the percent of minorities living in a neighborhood and how often police stop them in traffic stops is 33 percentage points, according to a Trend CT analysis of eight police departments in Connecticut that provided specific location data.

In areas where minorities are the majority, the gap is an average of just 10 points.

However in neighborhoods where white residents are the majority, the gap between the percent of minorities who live there and the percent of minorities who are pulled over is 38 points.

This is in line with what researchers have found at Central Connecticut State University's Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy, who provided the location-specific data.

The CCSU researchers also looked at the reasons for the stops in neighborhoods with the largest disparities.

"The reasons tend to be more likely to be equipment related as oppose to motor vehicle safety," said Ken Barone, the project manager at the institute.

It should be noted that the data behind this analysis is incomplete. Researchers had mixed success in finding the latitude and longitude of stops in some towns — especially in Granby and Wethersfield, where they could only geolocate 40 and 28 percent of the stops respectively.

However, this level of detail is unprecedented in the gathering of traffic stop data.

This detailed traffic-stop data at the department and officer level can help determine where patrol officers might be focusing too much or not enough attention.

When paired with demographic information at the census tract level, researchers can also investigate which neighborhoods are disproportionately affected, flagging potential activities that have indicators for racial profiling.

Trend CT sought to look closely at each of the departments and towns as part of our ongoing series on cops, stops, and race.

Traffic enforcement varies greatly from one department to another, and there are many factors that contribute to police presence in a neighborhood, the CCSU researchers said. "These results help to point us in a direction where we can start to further analyze the contributing factors to the overall racial and ethnic disparity in the data," said Barone.

East Hartford has higher levels of traffic enforcement concentrated in areas that have the largest minority populations.

Minorities make up more than half of East Hartford's driving-age population at 51 percent but make up 72 percent of all residents stopped by police. There is a noticeable disparity between population and stops among minority drivers in the northeastern-most tracts that border Manchester, where there are majority minorities.

The percent of black drivers stopped exceeded the town average in eight of the 14 census tracts, including five of the six high-enforcement activity areas.

Police stops for registration violations made up a signification portion of all traffic stops in East Hartford, and black and Hispanic drivers were more frequently stopped in areas with high minority populations.

About 78 percent of all registration stops were made in these census tracts— of them, 78 percent of those stops were made by a single officer.

Police told researchers that they targeted areas with the highest calls for service and where traffic was heaviest.

In Groton, many of the census tracts with high proportions of minority drivers stopped reflect the high population of minorities, but there are some areas where the stops exceeded the population.

One of the most-enforced areas in Groton Town borders a tract in Groton City that has the highest proportion of minorities in the area. Several areas also showed evidence of disparity between Hispanic drivers stopped and population.

More than half of the stops in Hamden involved minorities, though the town's minority driving population is 31 percent minority.

More than half of the traffic enforcement activity is clustered in three tracts that border New Haven. Only a quarter of Hamden's population lives in that area.

The tract closest to New Haven had the biggest disparity between the proportion of stops involving minority drivers and the minority proportion of the population.

There were 127 drivers stopped over the Hamden town border between 2013 and 2014. Of those, 65 percent were black. Officials said this sometimes occurs when a violation is spotted in Hamden but the driver pulls over in another town.

The Manchester Police Department made 3,400 traffic stops between 2013 and 2014. Of those, 43 percent were minority drivers, though minorities compose about 28 percent of the driving-age population.

In 13 out of 14 tracts that make up Manchester, minorities were pulled over at a rate that exceeded their population.

Traffic officers in New Britain pulled over drivers 5,500 times in 2013 and 2014, of which 63 percent were minorities. Minorities who are of driving age make up about 44 percent of the town population.

Researchers only managed to geolocate 76 percent of the stops.

One area saw a disparity between minority population and stops as high as 25 percent points in New Britain.

The largest share of traffic stops, about 42 percent, happen in tracts closest to a tract in Bridgeport that's about 97 percent minority.

The three tracts that generated the most traffic stops also are the three tracts with the highest population of blacks and Hispanics.

Less than half of the Waterbury population are minority-group members, but almost two-thirds of drivers stopped were minorities.

The majority of traffic enforcement in Waterbury is centered in the middle of town.