Racial Disparities in New York City Civil Summonses, 2019-2022

The purpose of this study is to assess racial and neighborhood disparities in the issuance of civil summonses by the New York City Police Department (NYPD). The report serves as a companion to a parallel study of criminal summonses.

Key Findings

Overall Civil Summons Trends

  • Spike in Civil Summonses in 2022: The NYPD issued 27,673 civil summonses in 2022 – nearly four times the total in 2021. By comparison, criminal summonses also increased from 2021 to 2022, though by a much lesser magnitude (up 62%).
  • Predominance of Public Consumption of Alcohol: The most common offense was open container of alcohol in public, making up more than four out of five civil summonses (83%) in 2022.
  • Mainly Low Fines: In 2022, citywide civil summonses accounted for $443,879 in fines, with the most common amount being for $25 or less (84%).

Racial Disparities

  • Disproportionate Issuance to Hispanic People: Hispanic people received over half (53%) of civil summonses in 2022, while making up 29% of NYC’s population.
  • Declining Racial Disparities Since 2019: In 2022, police issued civil summonses at a rate 1.9 times higher for Black than white people, compared to 3.8 times higher in 2019. The Hispanic-white disparity fell slightly from 4.0 to 3.6. By contrast, racial disparities in criminal summons issuance had grown since 2019.
  • Growing and Disparate Failure-to-Appear Rates: Failure to appear (FTA) means the individual neither paid the fine online prior to their schedule hearing date nor appeared in-person. From 2019 to 2022, failure-to-appear (FTA) rates grew from 48% to 54% overall. In 2022, FTA rates were 64% for Black, 57% for Hispanic, and 31% for white people.

Neighborhood and Income Disparities

  • Disproportionate Summonses in Low-Income Neighborhoods: In 2022, the NYPD issued one-third (34%) of civil summonses in zip codes within the bottom quintile of household median incomes in the City.
  • Greater Racial Disparities in Affluent Areas: While the NYPD issued fewer summonses overall in higher-income neighborhoods, among people receiving a summons, racial disparities were largest in the most affluent neighborhoods (top income quintile) – where Hispanic and Black people were 7.5 times and 5.5 times, respectively, more likely than white people to receive a summons.

This study points to growing police enforcement of minor misconduct in 2022, a change that is ostensibly at odds with the goals of police reform. While civil summonses rose alongside criminal ones, racial disparities decreased compared to 2019. However, disparities in criminal summonses increased over the same period, highlighting distinct policing approaches to each summons type.

Please see the full report (which opens with an executive summary) for more information.