Abstract: Property rights institutions are recognized as a fundamental determinant to economic performance. However, understanding how to secure property remains elusive. This paper attempts to provide a theoretical framework and empirical analysis to unpack the black box of property rights. The framework entails distinguishing between private versus public predation and subsequent enforcement mechanisms. This study asks two critical questions for understanding how to secure property: 1) How is both private and public predation constrained – through formal or informal mechanisms? and 2) Which is more important to constrain - public or private predation? The empirical results suggest that constraining public predation is at the core of providing overall secure property rights institutions; however, constraints on government stem from private, informal mechanisms that may or may not be reflected in codified formally provided political constraints. These results are robust to a variety of model specifications, multiple instrumental variables and a range of control variables.