Dealing with Vigilantism: Issues and lessons for the police

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Vigilantes pose an unusual problem for law enforcement agencies. On the one hand, police officers can understand where the vigilantes are coming from and even share some satisfaction in the ad hoc punishment meted out to suspected criminals. On the other hand, vigilantes often break the law in their efforts to punish alleged wrong-doers, and sometimes their perceptions of what constituents deviant behaviour is not shared by the legal system. What then are police officers to do? Do they energetically attempt to arrest and prosecute vigilantes - and risk a backlash of negative publicity in both local and wider communities, or do they quietly tolerate vigilantes, in the hope that they are more likely to do good than harm?
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)120-133
Number of pages14
JournalThe Police Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2001


  • policing
  • vigilantism
  • vigilantes
  • psychology of vigilantism

Cite this