Evidence for the argument that enforcement makes environmental policies effective is limited with respect to geography, scope, enforcement tools and regulatory context. Non-US evidence on criminal enforcement of illegal waste disposal is examined using a panel dataset of 44 counties from the German state of Baden-Württemberg for the period 1995–2005. The results support the pro-enforcement argument. Cumulatively, there is clear evidence for a general deterrence effect of enforcement intensity on the amount of waste crime. However, regional economic and political economy factors matter significantly for environmental outcomes. Violations appear to be treated differently depending on their local political economy context.