Abolish the Police, Arm the Citizens: The ‘Sagra Model’ of Privatized Security
by William Norman Grigg
“What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive? Or, if during the periods of mass arrests … people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang on the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood that they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?”
~ Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago
“They are coming to kill us!” exclaimed a young resident of Sagra, Russia as he spied a column of vehicles approaching the tiny village at the feet of the Ural Mountains. Responding to the alarm, several dozen residents mustered near the town entrance, bearing whatever weapons they could find. Some of them grabbed pitchforks, chains, or knives. Three men arrived on the scene with shotguns.
The leader of the approaching convoy was Sergei “The Gypsy” Lebedev, head of a criminal gang that had tormented Sagra for months. Lebedev’s followers swiped anything of value that was left unguarded. Power tools, appliances, and other household property disappeared; homes were vandalized as copper tubing and wiring were ripped out to be sold to scrap metal dealers. An onslaught of shoplifting threatened the survival of the village’s only significant retail store.
Exasperated citizens complained to the police in nearby Yekaterinberg, only to be treated with a mixture of amusement and impatient annoyance. Mounting hostility against Lebedev and his underlings prompted the gangster to withdraw – but only to gather reinforcements.
Lebedev was no petty cut-purse; his entourage included at least one vory v zakone (“thief in law”) – that is, a member of a politically-protected mafia.
The gang leader’s intent was to seize control of the village as a base of operations for a drug operation, and he clearly enjoyed the covert support of the region’s “law enforcement” establishment. Thus it was that late in the evening of July 1, Ledbedev assembled a contingent of about 60 armed thugs and mounted a punitive expedition against the village of 130 people.