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Time of Day and Vehicle Stops

November 30, 2021
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WRITTEN BY Dr. Jill Barnas

Executive Summary

Missouri law (RSMo 590.650) requires the collection of 10 data points during all vehicle stops by law enforcement agencies, including: demographics such as age, gender and race; location of the stop; reasons for the stop; whether a search was conducted and resulted in contraband discovery; if the stop resulted in a warning, citation, or criminal arrest; and the location of the stop. One variable not required within Missouri statute is the “time of day” the vehicle stop occurred. Research suggests time of day data can be an important variable to both understand crime patterns and detect traffic stops that may occur due to racial profiling. 

Highlights

  • In 2019, Missouri law enforcement agencies reported 1,524,640 vehicle stops, resulting in 102,755 searches and 74,553 arrests.
    • Black Missourians are 2.1 times more likely to be pulled over than White Missourians and 2.8 times more likely to be arrested from a vehicle stop.
  • In an analysis of 113,000 traffic stops in Texas, Black drivers were less likely to be stopped after dark; the reverse was true during the day. This effect is termed the “veil-of-darkness.”
  • Twenty-three states and Washington D.C. have varying laws related to or requiring data collection when a driver is stopped by law enforcement.
    • Currently, 9 states require law enforcement agencies to report the time of day the vehicle stop occurred.

Limitations

  • It is unknown to what extent the traffic stops reported are considered pretextual in nature. 
  • Law enforcement agencies in Missouri are not required to report “time of day” data. Therefore, it is unknown how time of day impacted the 1.5 million traffic stops in 2019. 
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