Public Good Under Appointed Versus Elected Mayors: Policing and Crime in Belgium

Andrea Colombo (ECARES, ULB)
Ilan Tojerow (ULB, CEB, DULBEA, IZA)

Abstract: This paper studies how the method by which mayors gain their positions impacts the provision of local public goods and, most specifically, policing. Our identification strategy exploits a natural experiment provided by the introduction in 2005 of direct election to mayorship in only one region of Belgium, Wallonia; while mayors from elsewhere are still appointed by the locally elected City Councils. Particularly, we compare crime incidence under mayors that are directly elected by voters and those that are appointed by an elected body. Conducting a difference-in-difference analysis with a rich dataset registering locally-reported crimes from 2000 to 2012, our results show a post-reform decrease in overall crime from 5% to 8%, depending on the specification. We provide evidence that the reallocation of efforts towards fighting specific types of crimes by directly-elected mayors drives this effect, rather than a general increase in police efficiency. Moreover, the “increased accountability” effect for each directly-elected mayor di- lutes when the management of local police has to be coordinated with other neighboring peers.

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