Acapulco, Mexico – When the law leaves town, the town makes their own law.
At least that's the theory in two towns in southwest Mexico where several hundred civilians have taken up arms and are arresting people suspected of crimes and imposing a curfew, leading authorities to promise security reinforcements in the area.
People wearing ski masks or bandanas and carrying guns this week began manning checkpoints on roads into the municipalities of Ayutla de los Libres and Teconoapa in Guerrero state's Costa Chica area, about 75 miles southeast of the Pacific resort of Acapulco.
Leaders said they were acting against crime and insecurity.
We want to return peace and tranquility to the entire population. Only the people can restore order.
- Romualdo Remigio Cantu, a vigilante leader
Guerrero Gov. Angel Aguirre Rivero responded Friday by announcing that security in the region would be bolstered by sending in Mexican soldiers and marines and federal and state police officers.
People in the area said about 800 residents have signed up for the armed groups, which act as unofficial police. The vigilantes ordered a 10 p.m. curfew for the two towns and are looking for suspected criminals. Schools have suspended classes.
In Ayutla, Romualdo Remigio Cantu, one of the coordinators for the civic group Union of Peoples and Social Organizations of Guerrero, said that more than 30 people had been arrested. The detainees are accused of drug trafficking, extortion and kidnapping, he said.
A man in a ski mask at one roadblock told reporters that townspeople had to act against criminals.
"They kill, extort, rape. You do not know if they are drug dealers, thugs, who want to grab everything," he said. "We want to return peace and tranquility to the entire population. Only the people can restore order."
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.