A recent article in the San Jose Mercury News – and the Mexico News Daily –caught my eye because it starkly brought into focus the conundrum of personal safety in Mexico. The headline read: “Santa Cruz Family Carjacked, Robbed and Left Penniless in Mexico.”
The family was car-jacked and robbed in the state of Michoacan by four men armed with assault rifles. According to the Mercury News, “the family was about 15 miles beyond a toll road in Cañas in the state of Michoacan about 11:30 a.m. February 7.”
We, of course, are very sympathetic to the terrible experience this family went through, but the U.S. Department of State issued a major update to its travel warnings for Mexico last month and Michoacan was listed as a no travel state for those visiting Mexico.
Personal safety is a conundrum in Mexico. On one hand the overall security situation in the country, according to our friends at HX Security Group in Mexico City, deteriorated considerably in 2017 and resulted in elevated threats to public safety across many areas of Mexico. But, as we pointed out in our article “The Truth About Personal Safety in Mexico,” most crime in the country follows a regional pattern, is closely linked to activities by organized crime, including drug cartels, and mostly is perpetrated upon citizens of Mexico, not expats or tourists.
Yes, sometimes tourists or expats are innocent victims, especially when they travel to unsafe areas or are in the wrong place at the wrong time. But those occurrences, thankfully, are few. As we have seen countless times, innocent people are injured or killed in the United States and other countries. It is not exclusive to Mexico.
Ask most expats living in Mexico if they feel safe and most will reply yes. In the fall of 2016 our Monthly Expat Poll found that more than eight-out-of-10 of the expats who responded said they felt safe in Mexico and their local area. Why? Because most expats live in areas of the country that have much lower rates of crime. Last month, we published “The Top 10 Safest Cities for Expats in Mexico.” The list actually included 19 cities where expats can live safely.
If you are concerned about your personal safety, we think the recommendations offered by HX Security Group make a lot of sense and bear repeating:
1. Carry government-issued photo identification at all times.
2. Avoid obvious displays of wealth and keep laptops and other electronic equipment out of sight, especially while in public.
3. Make certain your vehicle is in excellent working condition and always has sufficient fuel.
4. Avoid any unnecessary travel after dark.
5. Avoid disclosing travel plans to those you do not know well, including Mexican law enforcement personnel.
6. Stay up to date on local information in areas that show an increase in crime, including where you live or plan to travel.
7. Stay on main highways and streets whenever possible.
8. Drive defensively and monitor any potential obstacles in the road ahead. Be prepared to take an alternative route.
9. Drivers should try to maintain sufficient space around their vehicle when stopped at traffic lights to avoid being boxed in.
10. Avoid nightclubs, bars and similar entertainment venues because they are often attacked by rival gangs and are hotbeds of criminal activity.
11. Be especially cautious when stopped by local law enforcement personnel. They may be on a cartel’s payroll.
Be aware, be informed, but please don’t be afraid.