Closure of Smaller Police Stations Led to More Burglaries and Car Thefts

| Press release

Following the consolidation of smaller police stations in the German state of Baden-Württemberg, crime increased in the affected areas. This is the finding of a joint study conducted by the ifo Institute, EconPol Europe and the Halle Institute for Economic Research. Police station closures led to an 18 percent increase in car thefts and a 12 percent increase in residential burglaries.

“The increase cannot be explained by changes in police deployment strategies or reduced incarceration of criminals. Rather, it shows that the visibility of local police stations serves as a deterrent and, consequently, helps fight crime,” says Sebastian Blesse, Deputy Director of the Ludwig Erhard ifo Center for Social Market Economy and Institutional Economics in Fürth.

After the closure of police stations that had previously had a high crime clearance rate, there were 30 percent more car thefts in the affected regions. When police stations with lower clearance rates were closed, the increase was only 16 percent. For residential burglaries, the prior clearance rate had no effect on the results. Differences were also evident between closures of police stations in residential areas and downtown: closing police stations in residential areas results in more residential burglaries; but for police stations located downtown, e.g., in the town hall or the local marketplace, the number of residential burglaries remained the same after their closure.

The study is based on data from a comprehensive reform of the police organization in Baden-Württemberg. Until 2004, the year of the reform, local police units were highly decentralized. On average, there was one police station for every two municipalities. In the reform, the state government consolidated more than 200 smaller police stations. The authors used police crime statistics (number of cases, clearance rates, characteristics of suspects) provided by the State Criminal Police Office for Baden-Württemberg.

Questions can be directed to: Dr. Sebastian Blesse, 0049 / 911 / 477 9047,