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Data to be presented to Evanston’s Human Services Committee Monday by the city’s Law Department indicates that the disparity in arrest rates for ordinance violations between blacks and whites has declined somewhat recently, although it remains strikingly large.

The city figures show non-traffic city ordinance violation cases that were prosecuted by the Law Department for 2015, 2016 and through April 12 of this year.

Evanston Now compared those figures to the proportion of each racial group in the city’s population as reprted by the U.S. Census Bureau to produce the chart above.

In 2015 blacks were nearly four times more likely to be arrested for an ordinance violation as would be predicted by their share of the city’s population. That disparity has declined to just under three times more likely so far this year.

In 2015 whites were only 42 percent as likely to be arrested as would be predicted by their share of the city’s population. So far this year they are 73 percent as likely to be arrested.

The total number of arrests for ordinance violations declined from 122 in 2015 to 117 in 2016. If the rate of arrests so far this year continues for the full year, the full-year count this year would show another decline, to 105.

The Law Department’s report also provided figures for prosecutions related to traffic tickets. But for those cases a large number of defendants for whom racial identity was unknown made it infeasible to attempt to chart the numbers against the city’s population demographics.

The new report comes amid continued efforts by aldermen to eliminate disparate treatment of residents by race while still responding to community concerns about criminal activity.

The report also indicates that efforts by the city to automatically expunge arrest records would likely come into confict with state laws governing the expungement process, although it notes that a bill to provide for automatic expungement of juvenile arrest records that do not result in charges is under consideration in the state legislature.

Related story

Blacks five times more likely to be cited for pot (3/5/17)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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