Fines & Fees Collection and Enforcement In Wilmington, Delaware: Gains and Costs


For each dollar the city collected in fines and fees in FY 2022, 56 cents went to enforcement expenses.

Wilmington, Delaware, with a predominantly Black population, experiences a poverty rate surpassing the state average. Criticism has been directed at the city for its ticketing and booting practices, raising concerns about the fairness and equity of Wilmington’s fines and fees, particularly as they disproportionately impact communities already facing economic challenges. Utilizing budget data and responses from a motorist survey, this report explores the impact of fines and fees on parking and red-light ticket recipients. Findings reveal racial disparities, a high cost of enforcement, and greater reliance on revenue from fines and fees compared to typical U.S. cities.

You can read the full text here.  

Key Findings:

  • In FY 2022, Wilmington collected $8.4 million in fines and fees.
  • From FY 2003 to FY 2022, the annual fines and fees have increased by almost 50 percent as a share of the general revenue.
  • Wilmington nearly doubled its revenue ($4.2 to $8.1 million) from fines and fees for its general revenue from FY2004 and FY2022.
  • In FY 2022, fines and fees represented 4.4 percent of Wilmigton’s general revenue; a typical US city, on average, generated 1 to 2 percent. 
  • Late fees for parking tickets increase the fine by $20 increments when they are  21, 45, and 90 days delinquent.
  • 44 percent of survey respondents were categorized as “more highly impacted” by parking and red-light tickets as a result of paying or owing at least $400 in fines and fees.
  • Financial hardship disproportionately impacted non-white respondents; 44 percent of white respondents had difficulty paying costs compared to 80 percent of Black respondents and 94 percent of Hispanic respondents.
Stephen Metraux and Hoda Bazzi
Center for Community Research & Service