Chart of the Day: Minneapolis “Low-Level” Arrests by Race

You might have read about the recent repeal of the “lurking” and “spitting” ordinances by the Minneapolis City Council last week. Well, about a month ago, the ACLU released Picking Up The Piecesa polished and hard-hitting report on Minneapolis’ racial disparities in low-level crimes, of which lurking and spitting are only two. Here’s one of the many well-made charts from the study, which uses Police data from 2014:


arrest chart population

Here’s what the report says:

These disparities become more disconcerting when you take into account the racial makeup of Minneapolis and compare with who was arrested for low-level offenses from January 1, 2012, to September 30, 2014. White people make up 64 percent of the city’s population but only 23 percent of low-level arrests. Black people make up only 19 percent of the city’s population but accounted for 59 percent of the low-level arrests, the majority of which are clustered in predominantly Black neighborhoods in North and South Minneapolis that surround the city center. This disparity contributes to longstanding mistrust between communities of color and the Minneapolis Police Department.


There’s much more detail in the study, including a whole section on how these policing practices affect youth.

6 thoughts on “Chart of the Day: Minneapolis “Low-Level” Arrests by Race

  1. Monte Castleman

    Has anyone studied what percentage of the low level crimes are committed by blacks (actual crimes and not arrests?) If it’s greater than 59% then I commend the police for doing their job. If it’s less than 59% than I admit we have a problem.

  2. Nicole

    When I was listening to Chief Harteau a few weeks ago on MPR, she noted that each arrest is counted separately, but that there were a number of people who were arrested multiple times, and one person who was arrested more than 150 times (almost every other day!). No matter what color that one person is, their arrest data would skew the numbers. Is there a way to account for such outliers and then look at the data again? I would be curious to see what just removing those few folks with a high number of arrests from the data set would do.

    This is not to try to imply that there isn’t a real problem here. I think it’s clear that there is.

    1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

      Unbalanced police attention is a feature, not a bug, of our legal system, and it won’t change until people start admitting that to themselves.

      1. Nicole

        I wasn’t in any way trying to imply that there isn’t a Big Problem here. I was just suggesting a better data analysis. Accounting for the outliers might show that the disparity problem is even greater than the raw numbers suggest. Conversely, it might show that the problem isn’t *quite* as bad as it looks on first blush.

        At any rate, it’s clear we need to be talking solutions, not getting hung up on data analysis. I was just curious what it might show.

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