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:

[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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