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A vigilante is someone who takes the enforcement of law or moral code into his or her own hands. The term is Spanish for "watchman", a private security agent. It was introduced into English from the southwestern United States, in the same way as folkloric terms like "desperados". The term is applied to citizens who "take the law into their own hands," when the actions of established authorities are insufficient. Vigilantism is generally denounced by official agencies, especially when it gives way to criminal behaviour on the part of the vigilante, even if such illegal actions save lives.

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