Among the immigrants to San Francisco were the most ruthless criminals in the world. A substantial number came from Van Dieman's Land and New South Wales where the British had sent their criminals in the mid-1800s. Once those criminals served their time, they sailed for California.
The numbers grew and the "Sydney coves" (Sydney Ducks) were almost impossible to control as witnesses and prosecutors were few. The offenders operated unchecked from late 1849 through early 1851 with robberies, midnight assaults ending in murder, gambling, and starting fires, during which they would plunder shops and homes. At one point, more than 100 murders had been committed within the space of a few months and not one criminal had been executed.
To regain order, two vigilance groups were formed between 1851 and 1856. Unfortunately, rather than stemmig crime, they were among the most notorious. The 1856 Committee was one of the most successful organizations in the vigilante tradition of America's Old West.
The Committee of Vigilance formed in 1851 and revived in 1856 lynched eight people, kidnapped hundreds of Irishmen and government militia members, and forced several elected officials to resign.
The First Light Dragoons claimed to be the first legally organized militia company mustered in under the first Militia Law passed by the first session of the California Legislature held in San Jose in 1850. This claim was disputed by the Eureka Light Horse Guard which was organized about the same time. Whether the First Light Dragoons were first or not, they were destined to stay in the service for twenty-nine years, many of which were turbulent ones calling for loyalty to the cause of law and order.
The alleged criminality of the Sydney Ducks was the catalyst for the formation of the Committee of Vigilance of 1851. The vigilantes usurped political power in the city, conducted secret trials, lynchings, and deportations, which effectively decimated the Sydney Ducks. The area where the Sydney Ducks clustered, the base of Telegraph Hill, was originally known as "Sydney-Town," but by the 1860s was called exclusively by its better-known name, the Barbary Coast.
So... San Francisco is OUR fault???? :)