San Francisco was founded by the Spanish in 1776 and passed to Mexico in 1821. The Mexican state of which it was a part was seized by the United States in 1846. Shortly thereafter, the former quiet and undeveloped town grew 2,500 percent in one year: Gold had been discovered nearby. Ineffective military rule in the pre-statehood period and a weak criminal justice system thereafter led to serious crime and social unrest. Crime, prostitution, and political violence became endemic. In effect, self-styled vigilantes, with their own alternative ...

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