Governing by contract as a way to reduce crime? An impact evaluation of the large-scale policy of security pacts

  • Marco Calaresu
  • Moris Triventi
Research Article


In the last decades, governing by contracts, and in particular security contracts and pacts, has been increasingly promoted as a principal means of advancing crime prevention and governing security issues. Security pacts are a form of contract in which various institutional actors declare publicly to approve a common line of action, and/or taking mutual commitments and measures to prevent and control crime and disorder. Unfortunately, impact evaluations of the policy outcomes of security pacts are lacking. In this article, we aim to provide the first rigorous evaluation of the impact of a large-scale policy based on security pacts (involving around 12 million people) on various types of crimes in Italy. We built an ad hoc macro-level panel dataset of the 103 Italian provinces, with indicators covering a period spanning between 2004 and 2013. We applied generalized difference-in-difference models exploiting variation in the time and place in which the policy was adopted. Results indicate that security pacts had a limited impact on crime one year after the adoption, but significantly reduced thefts and micro-criminality two years after the adoption. We also found evidence of heterogeneous effects along province population size, with the largest effects in the larger provinces and null effects in the smaller ones. These findings are robust to a number of different sensitivity checks.


Difference in differences Policy evaluation Crime Security pacts Heterogeneous effects 



This article is the result of joint research undertaken by the two authors. The paper was presented at the 17th European Society of Criminology (ESC) Annual Conference in Cardiff (13–16 September 2017) and at the 10th ESPAnet Italian Conference (Forlì, 21–23 September 2017). We sincerely thank Anna Bussu at Edge Hill University, the Department of Applied Health, and the Institute for Public Policy and Professional Practice (I4P), for having hosted a public lecture (January 24th, 2018) in which we presented and discussed this work. Our gratitude goes to Anna Bussu, Giorgio Cutuli, Adam Edwards, Ivana Fellini, Tomaso Francesco Giupponi, Raffaele Guetto, Andrew Millie, Gian Guido Nobili, Chiara Poletti, Enrico Rettore, Mauro Tebaldi, Rossella Selmini and Loris Vergolini for discussing and debating ideas, concepts and methods related to an earlier versions of this article. Last but not least, we would also like to thank the three anonymous referees for their detailed and constructive remarks to our work. As usual, all errors remain ours.

Supplementary material

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of LawUniversity of SassariSassariItaly
  2. 2.Department of Sociology and Social ResearchUniversity of TrentoTrentoItaly

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