Kansas City Council looking to take away penalties for jaywalking

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jaywalking could soon be a thing of the past in Kansas City.

Not the action, of course. You’re likely to see it happen all over the city. Instead, the penalties for the offense could be taken off the books if the city council votes that way on Thursday.

Groups advocating for the end of citations say that there is an enforcement disparity. Over the past three years, according to statistics provided by the Kansas City Police Department, 83% of people who have gotten jaywalking tickets are men. And as for the racial break-down, 65% of tickets went to people who are Black.

“Is this considered jaywalking?” FOX4 Reporter Jacob Kittilstad asked while crossing a street near Swope Park.

“It probably would be since we’re not walking in a crosswalk. Under the way the law’s currently written we probably would be in violation,” Michael Kelly, policy director at BikeWalkKC said.

Kelley and BikeWalkKC are partially behind the push to reverse the jaywalking rules which he views as an entryway to over-policing.

“The jaywalking tickets have disproportionately been given to Black residents on our streets,” Kelley said.

“Even if you’re doing everything right, you still have to keep an eye out because there’s that potential that you might get pulled over for something trivial like jaywalking,” Kelley said.

“There are so many parts of our community where people would be in violation of the law even if they wanted to be following it,” Kelley said.

Another non-profit looking at infrastructure partnered on the proposal. Andrea Clark, policy director for KC Healthy Kids, gave testimony on the illusion of safety.

“Where you live – do you have sidewalks where you’re at? Have you been thinking a lot about this?” Kittilstad asked.

“A couple blocks away from me is affordable senior housing so you’ll see folks with walkers and automated wheelchairs on the street because the sidewalks are too bumpy,” Clark said.

“The idea that this improves pedestrian safety in some way, it just doesn’t make sense when you look at the data of where pedestrians are really in danger due to the traffic pattern vs. the areas where these policies are being implemented and enforced,” Clark said.

“Do you feel like most people even realize that they may have been breaking the law or breaking this ordinance daily?” Kittilstad asked Kelley.

“No. No. And I think that also speaks to why it’s sort of outgrown its use. Especially when we think about traffic violence in Missouri,” Kelley said.

This discussion on jaywalking started after Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas requested ideas on decriminalizing activities that lead to over-policing. The Kansas City council will vote on the topic during their meeting on Thursday.

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