Driving While Latino

Investigation shows disparities

In many communities across Chicagoland, Latino motorists are more likely to be stopped by police and more likely to have their vehicles searched than whites, a Chicago Reporter investigation has found.

"The Reporter examined the [state] transportation department’s data, which compile records collected from law enforcement agencies throughout the state, and found that 44 out of more than 200 communities in the six-county Chicago area recorded a disparity of at least 10 percentage points when the share of Latino drivers stopped is compared to their size in the driving-age population," Fernando Diaz writes in the investigative publication's March-April cover story, "Green = Go, Brown = Stop."

"In many communities with a recent surge in immigrant population, Latino drivers are being stopped at a higher rate by the police than their share of the driving-age population, and they are more likely to have their cars searched than their white counterparts, shows a Chicago Reporter analysis of 2007 traffic stop data collected by the Illinois Department of Transportation."

In an Editor's Note, Alden Loury writes that "If you believe that those traffic stops are a necessary cost of providing high-quality police service in areas embattled by crime, perhaps you’ve never truly been violated as the subject of such a traffic stop. If law-enforcement officials believe that those traffic stops are an invaluable investigative tool and a mere inconvenience to the thousands of innocent civilians who must endure them, they’re wrong."

And as part of the Reporter's package, Kara Madden and Stephanie Behne examine the state's once-vaunted racial profiling legislation  and find that "More than five years later, the law’s architects would be hard-pressed to show any significant changes resulting from it."

In fact, the Reporter's study suggests that, given increases in Latino populations, the problem is only getting worse.

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