Color Contrast: Racial and Ethnic Disparities in New York City Law Enforcement

Authored by our partners at the John Jay Research and Evaluation Center (JohnJayREC), this report is aligned with reform initiative 79 of “the Plan” as directed by MOCJ.


Arrest rates vary across the neighborhoods of New York City in ways that reveal racial and ethnic disparity. Researchers at JohnJayREC investigated the extent of disparities after controlling for differences in neighborhood demographics and crime rates as measured by 911 “calls for service.” The research team focused on two high-volume offenses: assault and larceny. Researchers created five neighborhood subgroups based on the proportion of Black and Hispanic residents in each neighborhood (quintiles from low to high). Next, they examined the percentage of arrests in each area that involved Black or Hispanic suspects. Neighborhoods with more Black and Hispanic residents reported more Black and Hispanic arrestees. However, the percentage of Black and Hispanic arrests relative to the percentage of Black and Hispanic residents (i.e., the “arrest to resident ratio”) was often disproportionate, particularly for larceny. Disparities could stem from a neighborhood’s crime reporting rate and the intensity of law enforcement efforts to investigate crime incidents and make arrests.