The turmoil in Cairo has proved a godsend for gangs of looters who have stripped bare many shops and homes.
Before the uprising police kept a high-profile presence on the streets.
But after several days of civil unrest they melted away leaving Egyptians with an overriding fear of lawlessness.
And in the absence of police officers young men stepped in to maintain a semblance of security.
Armed with whatever they could find, citizen patrols directed traffic in parts of the capital and checked vehicles at makeshift roadblocks.
‘I am very proud that these young people are protecting our homes because they love this country. We must preserve it,’ said one motorist.
‘We do not feel at all safe, not even from the police,’ a vigilante explained. ‘So we decided to protect ourselves, our homes and our streets. We have relatives in the army who told us we must do this because there is no more security and it will become more dangerous.’
As a new week began police started to become more visible. But the defence ministry has continued to call on civilians for help.
Our correspondent in Cairo, Mohamed Elhamy, said: ‘Even though there are more police on the streets, People’s Committees are seen as the only way to ensure safety particularly with the lack of trust shown towards the police force.’
The police are hated by many in Egypt. Security officials are unable to throw any light on why they disappeared from the streets.
Their task now is complex: maintaining safety and security for a population whose confidence in them is, at best, waning.