The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office issues hundreds of pedestrian citations a year, drawing on an array of 28 separate statutes governing how people get around on foot in Florida’s most populous city. There is, of course, the straightforward jaywalking statute, barring people from crossing against a red light. But in Jacksonville, pedestrians can also be ticketed for crossing against a yellow light, for “failing to cross a street at a right angle,” for not walking on the left side of a road when there are no sidewalks, or alternatively for not walking on a sidewalk when one is available.
The Sheriff’s Office says the enforcement of the full variety of pedestrian statutes is essential to keeping people alive in a city with one of the highest pedestrian fatality rates in the nation. The office also says the tickets are a useful crime-fighting tool, allowing officers to stop suspicious people and search them for guns and or drugs.
However, a Florida Times-Union/ProPublicaanalysis of five years of pedestrian tickets shows there is no strong relationship between where tickets are being issued and where people are being killed. The number of fatal crashes involving pedestrians, in fact, climbed every year from 2012 to 2016, the most recent years for which complete data is available.
What the analysis does show is that the pedestrian tickets – typically costing $65, but carrying the power to damage one’s credit or suspend a driver’s license if unpaid – were disproportionately issued to blacks, almost all of them in the city’s poorest neighborhoods. In the last five years, blacks received 55 percent of all pedestrian tickets in Jacksonville, while only accounting for 29 percent of the population. Blacks account for a higher percentage of tickets in Duval County than any other large county in Florida.
Blacks, then, were nearly three times as likely as whites to be ticketed for a pedestrian violation. Residents of the city’s three poorest zip codes were about six times as likely to receive a pedestrian citation as those living in the city’s other, more affluent 34 zip codes.