Saturday June 06 2020

Posted by on October 18, 2018
Violence Hotspots in Mexico


So you're think of traveling to Mexico but aren't quite sure about your security in the country. The US State Department regularly issues travel information on most countries and on August 22, 2018 has continued the Level 2 Travel Advisory for Mexico. Let's look at the reality of it for travel on the Baja peninsula.

The US State Department Travel Warning for Mexico no longer paints the nation as a whole with a broad brush of wanton violence. The new format Travel Advisory for Mexico outlines the risk to travelers in a simple 4 point scale. The lowest form being "Take Usual Precautions" Level 2 is Mexico as a whole received a level 2 advisory, which is "Exercise Increased Caution" Both states of the Baja peninsula rate a level 2. At level 3 you are advised to reconsider travel to those regions and Level 4 is an advisory to "Do Not Travel."

The travel warnings are heavily based on the homicides in a region. Homicides in Mexico rose by 16 percent in the first half of 2018, as the country again broke its own records for violence. The Mexican Interior Department announced there were 15,973 homicides in the first six months of the year, compared to 13,751 killings in the same period of 2017. 

The number is the highest since comparable records began being kept in 1997, including the peak year of Mexico's drug war in 2011.Cartel violence in Tijuana continues at an alarming rate in 2018 with 1165 homicides registered in the first six months, according to government statistics.

Excerpts from the US State Department Travel Advisory for Mexico

Exercise increased caution in Mexico due to crime. Some areas have increased risk. Read the entire Travel Advisory.

Violent crime, such as homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery, is widespread.

The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in many areas of Mexico as U.S. government employees are prohibited from travel to these areas.

U.S. government employees are prohibited from intercity travel after dark in many areas of Mexico. U.S. government employees are also not permitted to drive from the U.S.-Mexico border to or from the interior parts of Mexico with the exception of daytime travel on Highway 15 between Nogales and Hermosillo.

Read the Safety and Security section on the country information page.

Do not travel to:

•Colima state due to crime.

•Guerrero state due to crime.

•Michoacán state due to crime.

•Sinaloa state due to crime.

•Tamaulipas state due to crime.

For all other states in Mexico, please see detailed information below.

If you decide to travel to Mexico:

•Use toll roads when possible and avoid driving at night.

•Exercise increased caution when visiting local bars, nightclubs, and casinos.

•Do not display signs of wealth, such as wearing expensive watches or jewelry.

•Be extra vigilant when visiting banks or ATMs.

•Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.

•Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.

•Review the Crime and Safety Reports for Mexico.

•U.S. citizens who travel abroad should always have a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist.


 So is there a threat to travelers?

A recent Forbes article was titled "Mexico, where more Americans are murdered than anywhere else". Wow, that seems pretty scary and a reason to call off your Mexican Vacation no? But what the article fails to headline is that more Americans visit Mexico than any other country by a significant margin and that interest in Mexico continues to grow. 

In 2017 Mexico saw a record revenue from international tourism in 2017, netting 21.3 billion U.S. dollars from the sector and up 8.3 percent from 2016, Tourism Minister Enrique de la Madrid said on February 23, 2018. 

In 2017 Mexico saw "historical numbers" for tourism, welcoming 39.3 million foreign travelers in 2017, a 12-percent increase from 2016.

Mexico is the #2 foreign destination for Americans behind the Caribbean. With the number of people visiting Mexico and fewer than 75 Americans per year being victims of homicide you are literally statistically more likely to be murdered by a family member at home, than while on vacation in Mexico. (But perhaps you should leave that questionable family member at home.)

Does the Drug War Endanger Foreigners?

In neither in Baja California or Baja California Sur has a North American been a casual victim of cartel related violence. In fact, in 2017 despite Baja Sur reaching an astonishing 110 homicides per 100,000, not a single foreigner was even injured. The vast majority of the homicides appeared as body drops. It has been more than 18 months since there was an open exchange of gunfire between police and criminals. 

In Baja California Sur it was evident a truce was enforced between the warring factions by the government at the beginning of 2018. Large numbers of federal police and military descended on the state following the outbreak of hostilities in August of 2014, but it took the state making international news with the highest homicide per capita total for 2017 of any non-warring nation. Someone turned up the heat and just as quickly as the Drug War started, it disappeared. Please note, I didn't say ended, I said 'disappeared'. 

The first week of January 2017 saw a deluge of 'clean-up' homicides, more than two dozen state wide. Then poof, it ended. There have only been a handful of homicides in the state in the following 9 months. It has disappeared from the front page. Baja California Sur has returned to being its peaceful tourist welcoming self. 

In Baja California the homicide rate in the border city has a shot at setting new records. But, like Baja Sur, the vast majority of the homicides only appear as body drops. The most discouraging numbers from prosecutors trying to stem the violence is the low 11% arrest rate and even lower conviction rate. 

The good news is in the year to July 2018, violent theft against individuals and businesses decrease by 37%; violent and non-violent vehicle theft decreased by 11% and 41%, respectively; violent residential theft decreased by 35%; violent street robberies by 52%; and overall robberies decreased by 35%. 

So should you reconsider your travel to the Baja peninsula? In 2016 and early 2017 it was difficult to say Baja was as safe as it ever was. But things have changed for the better. Avoid traveling too far off the beaten path; particularly in the border cities it might not be the best time to be adventurer us. Remain aware of your surroundings and avoid becoming a drunken spectacle.  In the top tourist destination of Los Cabos you will find the city even more welcoming than ever as it moves to the top of the preferred Mexico destinations list. One of the greatest dangers to tourists remains too much tequila followed by leaving your wallet on the restaurant table. 

Come enjoy the wonders of the Magnificent Peninsula, we're waiting for you. 

Also see Cause of Death of Americans in Mexico 2017

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