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“Community police” vigilante Rene Zeferino rides in the back of a pickup as his unit patrols the streets of Ayutla de los Libres, in the state of Guerrero, Mexico. (Rebecca Blackwell/AP)

Relatives of six civilians allegedly killed by vigilantes ride home carrying photographs of their deceased loved ones in La Concepcion. (Rebecca Blackwell/AP)

News of violence and corruption emanating from Mexico is nothing new. And there is possibly nowhere more violent and corrupt than the state of Guerrero. Not only are there rival drug gangs vying over territory used to make heroin, but police are often seen as corrupt, too. According to Reuters, Police were accused of participating in the disappearance of 43 teachers college students in Guerrero in 2014. Indeed, violence and corruption are so bad that, according to Reuters, “it is not uncommon for state, federal and military forces to replace local security forces suspected of corruption and ties to Mexico’s powerful gangs.”

Upset with all of this violence and corruption, some people in Guerrero have banded together to form “citizen police” groups to protect their communities. Mark Stevenson of the Associated Press describes these groups as being “vigilante outfits with no allegiance — and often outright hostility — to elected authorities. They are grass-roots attempts by locals to rein in lawlessness in some of the areas most racked by killings, kidnappings, extortion and other malfeasance.” Not surprisingly, the job can be dangerous, even fatal, but not only for the vigilantes; ordinary civilians have also been killed. For example, Stevenson notes, “Alexis Estrada Asencio, a 17-year-old bull-riding enthusiast, and five other citizens were killed in La Concepcion on Jan. 7 in a confused gunfight between vigilante forces and other townsfolk over a dispute of a proposed hydroelectric dam near Acapulco.”

Associated Press photographer Rebecca Blackwell went to Guerrero to document how some of these vigilante groups operate. Here’s what she encountered:


Children walk past a vigilante in Ayutla de los Libres. (Rebecca Blackwell/AP)

A vigilante sits on guard with his weapon and radio outside his force’s base in Buenavista de la Salud. (Rebecca Blackwell/AP)

A vigilante counts rifle bullets in Buenavista de la Salud. (Rebecca Blackwell/AP)

Vigilantes search the trunk of a taxi at an impromptu roadblock on the outskirts of Ayutla de los Libres. (Rebecca Blackwell/AP)

Two prisoners are escorted back to their cell at the “community police” station in Xaltianguis. (Rebecca Blackwell/AP)

Prisoner Marcelo Ramirez Bolanos, left, cries as he is interrogated about a kidnapping and robbery by a vigilante in Xaltianguis. (Rebecca Blackwell/AP)

A baby peers up from her stroller at an armed vigilante in Xaltianguis. (Rebecca Blackwell/AP)

A relative comforts Maribel Julio Meneses during the wake for her son Daniel Julio, a vigilante in the village of Huamuchapa. (Rebecca Blackwell/AP)

A family member adjusts an altar set up in honor of Alexis Estrada Asencio in La Concepcion. (Rebecca Blackwell/AP)

Vigilantes stand guard on the roof of the force’s base in Buenavista de la Salud, (Rebecca Blackwell/AP)

Vigilantes gather around a campfire just after dawn as they pass a cold night outside their base in Buenavista de la Salud. (Rebecca Blackwell/AP)

Vigilantes inspect a bar in Ayutla de los Libres. (Rebecca Blackwell/AP)

Crosses and flowers mark the spot where four members of a “community police” force died near Rincon de la Via. (Rebecca Blackwell/AP)

[Editor’s note: This post previously named Mark Blackwell as an Associated Press reporter. HIs correct name is Mark Stevenson and the post has been updated to correct that error.]

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