D.C. parking, traffic tickets snowball into financial hardships


From 2016 to 2020 $96 million in traffic tickets were issued in White neighborhoods, whereas $467 million in traffic tickets were issued in Black neighborhoods.

The Washington Post analyzed patterns of moving violations from red light cameras, parking tickets and police stops between 2016 and 2021 in the District of Columbia. The article highlights findings of disparities between Black and White neighborhoods in the city’s ticketing and traffic enforcement policies. When a person in the District cannot pay their infractions, the amounts double. The city can then put a hold on licenses and vehicle registrations, which can lead to people losing their jobs and cars, making it even harder to ever pay off their debt to the city.

You can read the full text here.

Key Findings:

  • 62 percent of all fines from both automated systems and the D.C. police were issued in Black neighborhoods, where the median household income is below $50,000. In total, the city issued $467 million in infractions in these neighborhoods.
  • In overwhelmingly White and financially well-off neighborhoods, where the median income is over $100,000, the city issued $95.9 million in infractions.
  • Outside of downtown and commercial corridors, there’s an average annual total of $7.6 million in parking tickets issued in Black neighborhoods compared to $4.1 million in White neighborhoods. Black neighborhoods account for less than a third of the city’s driving-age residents.
  • Tickets that are often indicators of poverty, such as expired registrations, licenses and stickers, were more frequently issued in Black neighborhoods. From 2016 to 2019, $2.6 million were issued in Black neighborhoods whereas, $652,000 in tickets were issued in White neighborhoods.
  • In 2019, about 28 percent of traffic and parking fines owed from tickets issued in predominantly Black neighborhoods stemmed from late penalties, causing the original fines of $116.9 million to grow to $163.9 million owed.
  • During the pandemic, from March 2020 through June 2021, D.C. police issued more than $3.2 million in traffic infractions to Black motorists, and $569,700 to White motorists.
John D. Harden
The Washington Post