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County traffic stop data compiled by state

Thursday, June 8, 2006

Majority of drivers stopped by county cops are white; Hispanic drivers are more often searched

By Lisa Schlichtman

The latest round of traffic stop data has been compiled by the Missouri Attorney General's Office, and all law enforcement agencies in Barry County have complied with state law by submitting data for the 2005 Racial Profiling Report that was released on May 31.

Information on traffic stops made by the Barry County Sheriff's Department and the Cassville, Exeter, Purdy, Seligman, Washburn and Wheaton police departments is included in the report, which is now available through the Attorney General's website at www.ago.mo.gov.

"The vast majority of law enforcement agencies continue to cooperate with the law by working with my office to ensure that our analysis is as accurate as possible," said Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon. "The information in this report serves as an important basis for dialogue between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve."

The 2005 report documents 1,504,274 vehicle stops made by 624 law enforcement agencies across the state. These stops resulted in 119,872 searches and 81,777 arrests. The data is listed in chart form and compares stops involving drivers from different racial and ethnic groups.

The statewide numbers in the 2005 report indicate that African Americans were stopped at a rate 42 percent higher than expected based solely on their proportion of the driving-age population, up from 34 percent in 2004.

When compared with whites, African-American drivers were 46 percent more likely to be stopped. The 2004 report showed that African Americans were 38 percent more likely to be stopped than white drivers, based solely on their proportion of the driving-age population.

The 2005 report also shows that 12.52 percent of blacks who were stopped statewide were searched, compared to 7.03 percent of whites. A direct comparison of the two groups means an African-American driver who was stopped was 78 percent more likely to be searched than a white driver who was stopped.

Statewide, Hispanic drivers were stopped at a rate about 3 percent less likely than their proportion of the population. Those Hispanic drivers who were stopped, however, were almost twice as likely to be searched as white drivers who were stopped.

Nixon cautioned citizens that racial profiling can neither be proved or disproved by statistics alone and that a statistical disproportion does not prove that law enforcement decisions involving traffic stops are being based solely on inappropriate factors.

"Missouri law enforcement should continue their constructive efforts to eliminate any perceptions that traffic stops are being made solely on the basis of race, rather than for legitimate reasons," Nixon said.

Local findings

The number of traffic stops reported by the Barry County Sheriff's Department was up considerably in 2005. Deputies reported making 318 stops as compared to 202 stops in 2005. Of those stops, 285 of the drivers were white, 30 were Hispanic and three were Asian. County officers did not pull over any black drivers in 2005.

The report revealed that 75 searches resulted from the traffic stops, which equates to a 23.58 percent search rate. In 2004, Barry County's search rate was only 11.83 percent. Hispanic drivers were searched more often than white drivers. In 2005, 36.67 percent of Hispanic drivers involved in county traffic stops were searched as compared to 22.46 of white drivers.

Disparity indexes are also listed in the racial profiling report. These indexes are assigned to each race based on the number of drivers stopped and the search rate. A disparity rate of 1 indicates no disparity while values greater than 1 indicate an over-representation.

In Barry County, Hispanic rates carried a disparity index of 1.56 compared to a disparity index of 1 for white drivers. This index for Hispanic drivers is up slightly from 2004 when the disparity index was listed at 1.42 but down from 2003 when the Hispanic disparity index was 1.96. The disparity index for traffic stops of Asian drivers was 0.59.

Of the 318 traffic stops made by county deputies in 2005, 83 resulted in citations being issued and 28 resulted in an arrest being made. Officers also reported issuing 214 warnings.

A total of 213 of the drivers stopped by county officers were male as compared to 105 female drivers. A majority of the stops made involved drivers between the ages of 18 and 29. This age group accounted for 142 of the traffic stops. The number of stops by other age groups were as follows: 35, 17 and under; 65, 30 to 39; and 76, 40 and over.

More than half (193) of the traffic stops made by county officers occurred on state highways while 90 were made along county farm roads.



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