New figures from Evanston police, to be presented at tonight’s Human Services Committee meeting, show that black residents are more likely that others to be cited for possession of small quantities of marijuana.

The figures show that nearly 62 percent of the 60 people ticketed or arrested for cannabis possession during the third quarter of this year were black. The Census Bureau says just over 18 percent of Evanston residents are black.

The police say 18 percent of cannabis citations were issued to whites, who make up nearly 66 percent of the city’s population. And 18 percent of the citations were issued to Hispanics, who make up 9 percent of the city’s population.

The largest number of cannabis citations were issued in the 3rd Ward, followed by the 5th and 8th wards.

Citation numbers by city police were relatively low in higher-income neighborhoods in the city — including the 1st, 6th and 7th wards — and also in areas like the 1st and 7th wards which are patrolled in part by the Northwestern University police.

The police department figures also show that more than 80 percent of those accused of cannabis possession were male and nearly 87 percent of them were under the age of 30.

Wide disparities in the arrest rate for drug offenses have been noted nationally for years, with one 2010 study showing blacks were seven times more likely than whites to be arrested for drugs than whites. Federal studies show little difference in the drug use rates between whites and blacks. 

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. These numbers don’t tell the story

    Just because one group has more tickets does not demostrate bias. If a group [by race or whatevver] commiits a crime, they will likely be arrested more.

    You need to determine if a group is ticketed/arrestred more based on a different criteria.  Were they caught in equal circumstances as other groups e.g. same locations, in commission of another crime, etc..

    In another context that may illustrate false arguments. People complain against company X making $Y billions. But do they employ 1000 times more than a company people defend [companry  Z]? Have a profit margin [substantially] larger than company Z ? Maybe company X has stock holders that it must [and does ] pay profits [dividends] while Z keeps them all.  The Federral government is many times larger than a state or city government so it only makes sense they will have larger revenue/expenses.

    Likewise for crime, pure number don't tell the story.


    1. But the numbers demand review

      Agree the numbers are not the whole story.  But I have been looking at this issue for more than a year, and I think the arrests skew even more deeply against people of color.  I started looking at this in 2015 because my [white] children at ETHS reported this is what they thought was happening.  The Evanston police are challenged to gain trust and collaborate with residents of color in Evanston, and could have a bigger impact on Evanston gun violence if they could achieve that.  I am no friend of marijuana, but the police could gain a lot of trust if they focused on serious violations and skipped citations for infringements like marijuana and bikes.  They could give warnings and counsel kids, de-escalate and help kids at risk.  We'd all be safer.

    2. False equivalency

      Sorry, your example is not the same.  Seems like the less wealthy wards have more active police engagement on this issue than the more wealthy wards.  The question is why?  Especially given that usage is the same across racial groups.

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