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Racial Disparities in Arrests in Santa Clara County, California, 1980-2019

Published onOct 10, 2022
Racial Disparities in Arrests in Santa Clara County, California, 1980-2019
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Racial Disparities in Arrests in Santa Clara County, California, 1980-2019
Description

This report examines racial/ethnic disparities in arrests in Santa Clara County, California, from 1980 to 2019. Over the past forty years, felony and misdemeanor arrest rates have declined for all racial groups, but racial disparities have persisted and, in some cases, increased. Black residents, though a small percentage of the population, are disproportionately susceptible to being arrested. In the 2010s, the Black arrest rate was 5.4 times the White arrest rate—the highest Black-White ratio in arrest rates observed over the four decades. Nevertheless, as overall arrest rates declined over this period, the absolute difference between Black and White arrest rates substantially narrowed. Hispanic residents are also disproportionately arrested, but to a lesser degree than Black residents. Racial/ethnic disparities are most pronounced with respect to felony arrests; the Black-White ratio in felony arrest rates peaked at 7.2 in the 1980s and declined to 6.6 in the 2010s. Racial/ethnic disparities also exist, to a lesser degree, with respect to misdemeanor arrests. We find small racial differences in arrest dispositions (or, what law enforcement does with a person following arrest). However, it is noteworthy that, across all four decades, Black and Hispanic felony arrests are slightly more likely than White felony arrests to result in release due to “insufficient grounds to file a complaint.” This pattern could suggest that law enforcement officers are more likely to arrest Black and Hispanic residents for reasons that law enforcement entities later determine do not rise to the level sufficient for filing a complaint with the District Attorney’s Office.

 

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