The Dynamics of Neighborhood Watch and Norm Enforcement
IEW Working Paper No. 199
20 Pages Posted: 11 Aug 2004
Date Written: July 2004
We analyze the dynamics of neighborhood watch programs in a local interaction framework. Agents can watch their neighbors' houses and, thus, deter burglars from breaking in. At the same time, agents also try to recruit their neighbors to join the neighborhood watch program. The probability of an agent joining the neighborhood 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 neighborhood 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.
Keywords: Neighborhood watch, norm enforcement, cooperation, punishment
JEL Classification: C72, K42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation