Lack of Police Leaves Dangerous Streets in Cairo

These are scary times for citizens across Egypt, especially those in the capital of Cairo.

CBS News correspondent Mark Strassman reports that, across chaotic Cairo, there's another revolt that's taking a huge toll on the innocent.

Opportunists are rising against the rule of law.

In a frenzy of burning and looting, mobs have stormed supermarkets and stores, hauling away whatever they could carry.

"This country is very close to collapse," an observer said. "People will starve if the riots and looting continue."

Liveblog: Egypt in Crisis

In this city of eighteen million people, twice the size of New York, tanks patrol the streets, but there's not a cop in sight.

So throughout Cairo, vulnerable residents now arm themselves with sticks, bats, knives, and set up checkpoints to keep out strangers. In many cases, they add cameras.

In Cairo's Dokki neighborhood, we finally found a group willing to talk, including Machmoud Hamdy, an artist with a new tool.

"It's a knife. I never used it before. I never carried it before. I hope I will never use it," Hamdy said.

There are neighborhoods like this throughout Cairo; people protecting what they have because they can't count on anyone else.

One observer said: "Right now there is no government. We are the government."

Hussein, a photographer who's part of the new neighborhood militia in Dokkiis helping his group protect what they have, guarding those they love.

"What is this? What're we living in? Is this a country?" asked Hussein, adding that many neighborhood guards are willing to die to protect their homes.

Suddenly in this city, nothing feels safe.

The Military now guards the National Museum, home of the world's greatest Egyptian treasures, which looters attacked last night, smashing two mummies.

There is at least one report that police will return to the streets tomorrow.

This may be a new day for Egypt, but these are also scary nights.

  • Mark Strassmann

    Mark Strassmann has been a CBS News correspondent since January 2001 and is based in the Atlanta bureau.