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The Dynamics of Neighbourhood Watch and Norm Enforcement


  • Steffen Huck
  • Michael Kosfeld


We analyze the dynamics of neighbourhood watch programs in a local interaction framework. Agents can watch their neighbours' houses and thus deter burglars from breaking in. At the same time, agents also try to recruit their neighbours to join the neighbourhood watch program. The probability of an agent joining the neighbourhood watch program depends on the success of the program, i.e., whether burglaries continue to occur. We show that the punishment of burglars plays a dual role in this context. On the one hand, punishment deters burglaries if the level of punishment is sufficiently high. On the other hand, it also affects the probability of an agent joining the neighbourhood watch program. In particular, we show that if recruitment is harder when burglaries do not occur, a legal policy attempting to improve deterrence using more severe punishment is suboptimal. In a second part, we extend our model to the study of norm enforcement in public goods dilemmas and show that our results remain valid if agents can punish each other (instead of burglars) for not contributing to the public good. Our paper thus provides a first analysis of the evolution of "altruistic punishment" in large populations with local interaction.

Suggested Citation

  • Steffen Huck & Michael Kosfeld, "undated". "The Dynamics of Neighbourhood Watch and Norm Enforcement," IEW - Working Papers 199, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  • Handle: RePEc:zur:iewwpx:199

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Carpenter, Jeffrey P., 2007. "The demand for punishment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 62(4), pages 522-542, April.
    2. Carpenter, Jeffrey P., 2007. "Punishing free-riders: How group size affects mutual monitoring and the provision of public goods," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 31-51, July.
    3. Theo Offerman & Jan Potters & Joep Sonnemans, 2002. "Imitation and Belief Learning in an Oligopoly Experiment," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 69(4), pages 973-997.
    4. Edward L. Glaeser & Bruce Sacerdote & José A. Scheinkman, 1996. "Crime and Social Interactions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(2), pages 507-548.
    5. Michael Kosfeld, 2002. "Stochastic strategy adjustment in coordination games," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 20(2), pages 321-339.
    6. Simon Gachter & Ernst Fehr, 2000. "Cooperation and Punishment in Public Goods Experiments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 980-994, September.
    7. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gaechter, 2003. "Altruistic Punishment in Humans," Microeconomics 0305006, EconWPA.
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    Cited by:

    1. Yamamura, Eiji, 2009. "Formal and informal deterrents of crime in Japan: Roles of police and social capital revisited," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 38(4), pages 611-621, August.
    2. Yamamura, Eiji, 2011. "The effects of the social norm on cigarette consumption: Evidence from Japan using panel data," Japan and the World Economy, Elsevier, vol. 23(1), pages 6-12, January.
    3. Gonzalo Olcina & Vicente Calabuig, 2015. "Coordinated Punishment and the Evolution of Cooperation," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 17(2), pages 147-173, April.
    4. Eiji Yamamura, 2016. "Effects of Female Labor Participation on Smoking Behavior in Japan: Selection Model Approach," Journal of Economics and Econometrics, Economics and Econometrics Society, vol. 59(3), pages 1-18.
    5. Akçomak, İ. Semih & ter Weel, Bas, 2012. "The impact of social capital on crime: Evidence from the Netherlands," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(1-2), pages 323-340.
    6. Ferrer, Rosa, 2010. "Breaking the law when others do: A model of law enforcement with neighborhood externalities," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 54(2), pages 163-180, February.
    7. Simundza, Daniel, 2014. "Criminal registries, community notification, and optimal avoidance," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 73-82.
    8. Bruno S. Frey & Simon Luechinger & Alois Stutzer, 2007. "Calculating Tragedy: Assessing The Costs Of Terrorism," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 21(1), pages 1-24, February.
    9. Yamamura, Eiji, 2011. "Comparison of the effects of homeownership by individuals and their neighbors on social capital formation: Evidence from Japanese General Social Surveys," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 40(5), pages 637-644.
    10. Remenik, Daniel, 2009. "Limit theorems for individual-based models in economics and finance," Stochastic Processes and their Applications, Elsevier, vol. 119(8), pages 2401-2435, August.
    11. Josef Falkinger, 2004. "Noncooperative Support of Public Norm Enforcement in Large Societies," CESifo Working Paper Series 1368, CESifo Group Munich.
    12. Yamamura, Eiji, 2010. "Effects of Female Labor Participation and Marital Status on Smoking Behavior in Japan," MPRA Paper 21789, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item


    neighbourhood watch; norm enforcement; cooperation; punishment;

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law

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