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April 15, 2015

Analysis: White men make up half of arrests in Lower Merion

But African American arrests outpace population percentage

Following accusations of racial discrimination, Lower Merion police have released an updated report on arrests on the Main Line which shows that the percentage of blacks arrested is far greater than the percentage who live in the township.

White men, however, make up half of those arrested in 2013 and 2014.

The department faced a social media backlash over the winter when officers stopped two black men who were offering to shovel snow in residential neighborhoods. A woman, who hired the men, speculated on Facebook they were questioned by police because of their skin color; following an investigation, police said the officers had followed procedure in enforcing the township's solicitation rules.

But the department also released figures on arrests that provided a detailed snapshot of the nature of crime on the Main Line.

According to Lower Merion police records, there were 3,120 arrests, from minor offenses to felonies, made in the township in 2013 and 2014.

Sixty-six percent of those arrested were white, while Blacks made up the next largest group with 30 percent and then Asians at 3 percent. Hispanics were not included in the breakdown. The 2010 census shows that of Lower Merion’s 57,800 residents, a little over 85 percent are white, 6 percent Asian and 5.6 percent are black. Hispanics made up slightly under 3 percent. 

White men accounted for 50 percent of the arrests, with the average age of those arrested around 27. Black males accounted for 22 percent of all arrests, with the average age being 30. White females made up the third largest percentage at 17 percent and an average age of 27, then Black women at 8 percent and 31 as the average age.

Lower Merion police argue the majority of arrests, especially among blacks, are of non-residents, which helps explain the disparity.

During that two-year period, there were four rapes, 53 robberies, 20 aggravated assaults, 433 burglaries, 65 auto thefts, 1,134 thefts of more than $50 worth of property or money and 389 thefts of valuables under $50.