Border Walls


Border Walls and Crime Spillovers

w. Anna Getmansky and Guy Grossman

We estimate the causal effect of a large, plausibly random border wall project on crime spillovers in Israel. The timing of border wall construction was staggered, disrupting smuggling access to some towns before others. Using data on the location of car thefts before and after fortification, we find a large deterrent effect in protected towns (41% decline) and substantial displacement to not-yet-protected towns (34% increase). For some protected towns, fortification also arbitrarily increased the length of preferred smuggling routes. These village-specific shocks to smuggling costs further deterred theft (6% drop per kilometer). Drawing on novel arrest records, we find that the displacement of crime to unprotected towns is not driven by labor relocation from protected townships. Instead, local criminal organizations in unprotected towns increased their theft efforts. We also find evidence that wall construction induced substitution from cross-border smuggling to other forms of property crime where assets are liquidated in Israel.


Latest draft here.


Smugglers respond to granular changes in the costs of smuggling