Sanctuary City and Crime

32 Pages Posted: 23 Sep 2019 Last revised: 25 Oct 2019

See all articles by Yuki Otsu

Yuki Otsu

Washington University in St. Louis - Department of Economics

Date Written: October 24, 2019


Sanctuary policy is a policy that limits the enforcement of immigration laws against undocumented immigrants. Sanctuary policy has gained more attention in recent U.S. political debates. The theoretical effect of sanctuary policy on crime is ambiguous. Sanctuary policy may attract criminals and lower the opportunity cost of crime through weaker sanctions and lower apprehension probability, but may also make a spiral of trust that supports police and raises informal social control over crime. Using city crime data from 1999 to 2010, I investigate if sanctuary policy causes an increase in crime. Using a difference-in-difference approach, I find that sanctuary policy does not cause an increase in crime and may lead to a decrease in robbery and burglary. Hence, it is unlikely that sanctuary policy causes an increase in crime. I investigate the channels behind the relationship and find no evidence that sanctuary policy causes increases of foreigners or migrants.

Keywords: sanctuary city, crime policy, undocumented immigrants

JEL Classification: J68, K37, R59

Suggested Citation

Otsu, Yuki, Sanctuary City and Crime (October 24, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Yuki Otsu (Contact Author)

Washington University in St. Louis - Department of Economics ( email )

One Brookings Drive
St. Louis, MO 63130
United States

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