Vigilantes and Criminals are two halves of a whole, two sides of a coin. They both act outside the law and while vigilantes may do so in the name of justice and criminals for their own gain, the lines are much more blurred than many would care to admit. Criminal activity level can affect vigilante levels and vice versa, but the relationship between the two isn’t always as clear cut as that.
Vigilantes differ from superheroes in that they act outside of established law in order to balance the scales of justice. They are dedicated people who refuse to standby while their friends, family and neighbors get hurt by those who break the law, whether they be gangbangers, crooked cops or corrupt public officials. There are many reasons why one or more vigilantes will arise in a given locale. Maybe the establishment is too corrupt, incompetent or just plain slow to effectively deal with crime. Perhaps living comfortably behind bars isn’t enough punishment for the truly evil and sadistic and harsher consequences demand to be enacted by the community. Either way, when the call for justice goes unanswered long enough, vigilantes are sure to follow.
Vigilantes 1- Baseball Bats and Hockey Masks. Vigilantes are a virtual unknown. If they appear at all, it is only for a short time and to very little effect. The reasons why can vary. Sometimes it’s not a numbers game. It could be that there’s no vigilante culture in a given area for them to take root, or they’re too wide spread to make any kind of dent on the local criminal underworld. It’s more likely to be about vendettas and personal revenge than any kind of moral crusade against a culture of corruption and criminality, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t crazies who try. Cities with strong police cultures and leaders with an authoritarian bent will do their utmost to suppress vigilante activity, especially if said public officials are on the take. To be a vigilante at this level is a dangerous proposition.
Vigilantes 2- Guys and Gals in the Chair. Vigilantes are slightly more established at this level and may have established their own support network, though they usually amount to a friendly nurse, cop or a fellow crime fighter who patrols a neighboring area. But even if they have a “guy in the chair” who hacks and researches on their behalf, for the most part vigilantes are still a solo act. Small teams of them can form in the face of well armed and organized criminals but these are rare exceptions and trust is often in short supply. Life expectancy is better but not by much. Survival is still the name of the game for the foolhardy and insane who decide to take up the vigilante mantle.
Vigilantes 3- Pouches and Long Guns. There are enough vigilantes around that “jurisdiction”, such as it is, is hotly contested. Unless a unifying force emerges, vigilantes sometimes have to deal with turf disputes as much as crime. Vigilante teams are common and the divide between professionals with training and resources and amateurs with gumption is more obvious. Vigilantes also interact more with local law enforcement in terms friendly or otherwise. This may be due to necessity, because if there are enough vigilantes to get a city to level 3, then something has definitely gone wrong with the machinery of justice and cops can be content to let “civilian solutions” work the problem out.
Vigilantes 4- Team Anywhere, USA. Vigilantes have begun to touch the culture where they operate and restaurants, streets, even local cuisine might be named after a prominent crime fighter or team. Vigilante society is more stratified and there are great divides between swat style professionals and the baseball bat wielding amateur hour left around from lower vigilante levels. Numbers and resources are what push vigilante activity to level 4 and if civilians respect the vigilantes for the work they do, city officials must learn to adapt or be left in the dust as irrelevant relics.
Vigilantes 5- Officers Mask and Louis Cannon. At this level a city has, for all intents and purposes, two law enforcement wings. A hero or team of heroes calls the city their home and are as much a part of the city’s identity as its local landmarks and sports teams (and can be as loved or reviled as them too). In some parts of the world, whole towns will mask up to fight injustice. Mexico, Southeast Asia, and Africa are particular hot spots for this sort of activity.
Crime is a part of civilized life. Where there are laws, there are those that break them, whether for greed, political resistance, or love of the game. Cities don’t have to be rich to attract the criminal element, but the class of crooks does change depending on environment. Great metropoli will have criminal cartels with international connections and street gangs clawing onto their turf. Rural areas will have pockets of drug labs, runners, and motorcycle gangs that hide out where the long arm of Johnny Law seldom reaches.
Criminal Element 1- Pre-Crime. Utopian visions. There is very little crime that gets perpetrated, or if there is it doesn’t go unpunished. Criminal networks and organizations are unheard of as there is either no societal shortfall or want that would necessitate the crime or the police are super effective at busting gatherings of two or more crooks thanks to super crimefighting tech.
Criminal Element 2- Pick pockets and purse snatchers. Criminals are stupid and unorganized most of the time. Very often, they don’t think things through and it’s that lack of foresight and judgement that landed them in the life of crime to begin with. There are crimes of passion and crimes of opportunity, but very little in the way of organization, planning or support.
Criminal Element 3- Street gangs and crime rings. The crimes and the people doing them are starting to get more intense. Criminal networks are at their infancy, but solid communication and support can keep a gang or ring of criminals going for years. Turf wars aren’t common, but do happen when contested territory comes up for grabs. Here is where true organized crime begins to emerge.
Criminal Element 4- Cartels and mob underworlds. At this level a city can have an entirely separate black market economy that keeps the locals sweet and gives criminals a nest of safety to operate away from the eyes of the law. With enough influence and power, criminals can even buy their own cops, judges and mayors. With deep enough pockets, murders can be covered up and elections massaged for preferred candidates.
Criminal Element 5- Rogue nations and supercrime leagues. At this level, crooks run the show and have more power than elected officials and even law enforcement if not outright supplanting them. There is no limit to the influence crime can buy at this stage. Even entire nations can become hot beds of crime and supercriminals can operate out in the open with little fear of repercussion thanks to diplomatic immunity or whatever other legal measures they can take advantage of.