Police in a district of Shenzhen have taken the controversial step of awarding local residency to security guards who successfully stopped 10 street robbers in a year, Guangzhou Daily reported yesterday. According to the newspaper, the Public Security Bureau in Shenzhen's Baoan district decided last March to adopt the special measure to 'motivate security guards to take a more active role' in cracking down on street robbery. The incentives applied to security guards employed by police and were limited to those who could apprehend two types of robbers at the scene. These two types of robbers are those who rob people on the street and motorcyclists who snatch people's wallets or handbags from their bikes. Baoan district has a combined population - floating and permanent - of about 4.5 million and is infamous on the mainland for street robberies. Gangs often attack pedestrians from their motorcycles or simply mug people in back alleys. There are fewer than 1,400 policemen and firemen in the district. It is common on the mainland for police to hire security guards - mostly from outside provinces - to look after mundane business of keeping watch and maintaining order. Because they are not locals, they don't have residency. The Guangzhou Daily said police in Baoan were giving security guards cash rewards of 5,000 yuan (HK$4,650) if they arrested 'criminals who were about to commit serious crimes such as murder, kidnap, explosion and armed robbery red-handed'. The scheme has attracted much discussion on the internet. Some have posted comments in chat rooms, saying it is absurd to rely on security guards to do policemen's work. 'If security guards can take on armed criminals, what do we need policemen for?' one man asked on Xinhua's website.