Pocketbook Policing: How race shapes municipal reliance on punitive fines and fees in the Chicago suburbs

This article highlights a correlation between the racial segregation of Chicagoland’s suburbs and the disproportionate imposition of fines, fees, and forfeitures in Chicagoland’s Black suburbs. The authors explain that unlike White suburbia, increases in property taxes, sales taxes, and a lack of commercial investment contribute to the fiscal crises that Black suburbs experience.  As a result, officials in Black suburban municipalities are driven to rely on fines and fees to address budget shortfalls. 

You can read the full text of the article here, but it lives behind a paywall. 

Key findings

  • Eight of the ten ZIP codes in Chicago with the highest accumulated ticket debt per adult are majority Black. 
  • In 2016, 11 Chicago suburbs collected upwards of $116 in fines and fees per adult, which is more than the per capita amount of fines and forfeits collected in Ferguson, Missouri the year it was investigated by the Justice Department. 
  • The imposition of fines and forfeits were most pronounced in wealthy Black suburban areas. 
  • As a method of raising revenue and closing budget shortfalls, officials in Black and other minority suburbs pressured police officers, community service officers, and housing inspectors to enforce policies and ticket people more aggressively. Other officials also enacted new vehicle impound fees and installed red-light cameras to cover budget gaps. 
Josh Pacewicz, Brown University, and John N. Robinson III, Washington University in St. Louis
Oxford University Press and the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics