NYPD officers stop over one million New Yorkers in vehicles every year and these stops are likely the largest category of police-civilian interaction. One reason for the enormous number of vehicle stops is that courts have ruled police officers generally have the authority to stop any vehicle as long as they can claim a traffic or vehicle infraction. This standard is so low – especially since it is difficult to drive without violating one of the numerous traffic laws – that it makes it difficult to challenge stops that are made for impermissible reasons, including racial profiling.
Until recently, the NYPD revealed little about the outcome of traffic stops and who the department was pulling over. Now data obtained by the NYCLU after a lawsuit against the NYPD reveals troubling information about how the NYPD polices New York City drivers.
The data shows that NYPD officers are more likely to stop, arrest, search, and use force against Black and Latinx drivers. There are also geographic disparities that show drivers in certain boroughs and particular neighborhoods are more likely to face NYPD scrutiny.
According to an original analysis of NYPD traffic stop data from an 18-month period, January 2022 to June 2023, the NYCLU found the following:
The NYPD made more than one million traffic stops. The NYPD issued a ticket in about 650,000 stops, made an arrest in around 24,000 stops, searched a vehicle in close to 21,000 stops, and seized a vehicle in approximately 9,000 stops.
Black and Latinx drivers are disproportionately stopped, accounting for 32 percent and 29 percent of traffic stops, respectively, while they each represent approximately 22 percent of the driving population. White people are vastly underrepresented in traffic stops, accounting for 25 percent of traffic stops, yet making up 40 percent of the driving population.
Black people make up only seven percent of the Staten Island resident population with access to a car but account for 20 percent of drivers stopped in the borough. White people make up 62 percent of the Manhattan resident population with access to a car but account for only 27 percent of drivers stopped in the borough.
Nearly 90 percent of people arrested during a traffic stop were Black or Latinx.
Black drivers were searched at a rate roughly nine times greater than the rate that white drivers were. Latinx drivers were searched at a rate roughly six times greater than the rate that white drivers were.
Summing Up the Data
Every year, the NYPD stops more than one million New Yorkers. The NYPD stopped 1,044,846 drivers from January 2022 through June of 2023, leading to a variety of outcomes including 825,338 summonses (“tickets”) and thousands of arrests, vehicle searches, and vehicle seizures.1 See the table below for a summary of traffic stop outcomes. Note that multiple outcomes can occur at the same time. For instance, a single driver may be stopped, searched, and arrested. In addition, two summons may be issued or two arrests can be made during a single stop.
Approximately 91 percent of vehicles stopped were passenger vehicles (cars and SUVs), three percent were trucks or buses, two percent were taxis or limousines, and over one percent were bicycles.
Racial Composition of Drivers
A driver’s race appears to play a critical role in who is stopped in New York City. Black drivers make up the largest proportion of people stopped by the NYPD (32 percent), followed by Latinx drivers (29 percent), white drivers (25 percent), and Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) drivers (13 percent). Black and Latinx drivers are disproportionately stopped, accounting for 32 percent and 29 percent of traffic stops, respectively, while they are each approximately 22 percent of the driving population. White people are vastly underrepresented in traffic stops, accounting for 25 percent of traffic stops, yet making up 40 percent of the driving population.
Traffic Stops by Race
Jan 2022 - Jun 2023
Where People Are Stopped
A New York driver’s chances of being stopped depends on where they’re driving. The NYPD made 31 percent of recorded traffic stops in Brooklyn (320,686), 22 percent in Queens (230,112), 22 percent in Manhattan (229,741), 17 percent in the Bronx (177,069), and eight percent in Staten Island (87,238). Traffic stops disproportionality occurred in Manhattan compared to its share of New York City households with access to a car. Fewer stops occurred in Queens than one would expect given the number of drivers who live there.
Traffic Stops by Borough
Jan 2022 - Jun 2023
Black and Latinx drivers are overrepresented in vehicle stops and white drivers are underrepresented in vehicle stops in every borough except for the Bronx. For example:
- Black people make up only seven percent of the Staten Island resident population with access to a car but account for 20 percent of drivers stopped in the borough.
- White people make up 62 percent of the Manhattan resident population with access to a car but account for only 27 percent of drivers stopped in the borough.
Traffic Stops by Race + Borough
Jan 2022 - Jun 2023
Who Gets Arrested after a Stop
Approximately 25,000 arrests were made during about 24,000 NYPD traffic stops. Black and Latinx drivers were arrested during traffic stops in four percent and three percent of stops, respectively, much higher rates than white drivers, who were arrested in less than one percent of stops. This means nearly 90 percent (20,764 of 23,595) people arrested were Black or Latinx.
Arrest Rate by Race
Jan 2022 - Jun 2023
Who Gets Searched and Where Searches Happen
When police search a vehicle, most of the time they don’t find any evidence of a crime. The NYPD conducted searches during 20,911 traffic stops, about sixty percent of which (12,670) occurred during a stop where no summons was issued and no arrest was made. Approximately 30 percent of searches occurred during stops when an arrest was made. The remaining portion of searches (10 percent) took place during stops where a summons was issued but no arrest was made.
Black and Latinx drivers were searched at much greater rates than drivers from other racial groups. Black drivers were searched at a rate roughly nine times greater than white drivers. Latinx drivers were searched at a rate roughly six times greater than white drivers.
Vehicle Search Rate by Race
Jan 2022 - Jun 2023
The NYPD conducted searches at relatively high rates in the Bronx and central Brooklyn, predominantly Black and Brown neighborhoods. Searches are very rarely conducted in south Brooklyn, Lower Manhattan, Staten Island, and parts of Queens. Three of 77 precincts had a search rate of over six percent, meaning that over six percent of stops led to a vehicle being searched: Brownsville, Ocean Hill (PCT 73), University Heights, Morris Heights (PCT 46), and Morrisania, Crotona Park East (PCT 42). See map below for more details:
When the NYPD takes temporary possession of a vehicle, that constitutes a “seizure.” The NYPD can seize a vehicle for a number of different reasons—including in the context of an arrest for “safekeeping,” or as evidence of a suspected crime, or even because they intend to take permanent possession of it through civil forfeiture.2 Depending on the context, it can be difficult or impossible to get it back. Accordingly to our data, vehicle seizures occurred in roughly one percent of stops citywide. The rate of vehicle seizures in a handful of precincts is significantly higher than others. The NYPD seized a vehicle in roughly three percent of traffic stops in Midtown (PCT 18), East Harlem (PCT 25), Morningside Heights (PCT 26), Hunts Point (PCT 41), and Concourse, Highbridge (PCT 44).
When Stops Turn Violent
The NYPD reported use-of-force in 557 traffic stops. Approximately 91 percent of drivers subject to such cases were Black or Latinx. Of 530 stops where the NYPD reported use-of-force and the race of the driver was available, 306 drivers were Black, 176 were Latinx, 28 were white, and 16 were AAPI.
Thirty-one percent of use-of-force incidents (172 of 557) took place in the Bronx, even though only 17 percent of stops took place in the borough. Three-quarters of NYPD precincts (59 of 77) reported less than ten use-of-force incidents each. But seven precincts reported twenty or more use-of-force incidents each.
Nearly nine percent of vehicle stops (88,845) originated at an NYPD checkpoint. Checkpoint stops in Staten Island and Brooklyn accounted for a greater percentage of total stops than in the other three boroughs, 11 percent and 10 percent, respectively. Checkpoint stops accounted for 12 percent of stops (1,644) where the driver was Native and 11 percent of stops (13,459) where the driver was AAPI. By comparison, only seven percent of stops (15,635) where the driver was white occurred at a checkpoint.
Checkpoint Stop Rate by Race
Jan 2022 - Jun 2023
The share of stops that originated at an NYPD checkpoint was over twenty percent – double the citywide average – in three precincts: Greenwich Village, Soho (PCT 6), East Flatbush (PCT 67), and Park Slope, Prospect Park (PCT 78).
Stops by Age and Gender
Nearly half of all drivers stopped were under the age of 35. Thirty-one percent of drivers stopped were between the ages of 25 and 34. People aged 55 or older accounted for only 15 percent of drivers stopped. Drivers between the ages of 18 and 24 were searched in more than four percent of stops, much higher than the citywide average. Older drivers are stopped at checkpoints at a higher rate than young people.
A vast majority of drivers stopped by the NYPD were men (81 percent of traffic stops with a recorded gender). Men had their cars searched and were arrested at much greater rates than women.