The dance hall is closed. There's no beer at the bar. And restaurant patrons have to cut their thirst with soda.

Neighborhood leaders have imposed a sort of vigilante dry law in the coca-growing mountain town of La Asunta, hoping to end a series of rapes and other crimes.

By night, groups of citizens patrol the town of 7,000 people, sometimes shooting off firecrackers to warn saloons and discotheques to shut down.

"This has gotten out of hand. The police can't do anything so we've decided to take our own measures and we've called for complying with a 30-day dry law," said Jorge Mendoza, a neighborhood leader in the town some 60 miles northeast of La Paz, the capital.

Residents began the patrols after an 11-year-old girl was raped on May 30. While they haven't caught a suspect in that case, they grabbed another man who was identified as a rapist by a 12-year-old girl.

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Neighbors went to his house, tied his hands and pushed the 22-year-old through the streets with a hand-scrawled sign saying, "I'm a rapist." Several people came out and beat him before he was handed over to local police.

"It was about time that the people that people did something about all this," said Flora Nati, who said she joined the patrols because of fear for the safety of her two sons.

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