Is Mexico Safe?
That is the question that the media teaches us to ask. But, the real questions are: “Can you afford to miss the beauty, culture and beaches of Mexico because of fear?” or “Will you be safe when you go to Mexico?” While the statistics about crime and security in Mexico are not consistent, there are general guide lines that one can use to predict and plan for safety on a specific trip. They are: purpose, behavior and location.
Those who go to Mexico for a convention, for (legal) business purposes or for a vacation are unlikely to see the violent crime that we see on news reports. Most resorts, colonial cities, Eco-tours and guided adventures may be as safe as your own hometown.
So why do we see all of these reports? As a reporter, the first thing that I learned was to report the unusual. Everyday occurrences are not news and are, subsequently, not reported. (The common phrase is that if a dog bites a man it is not news, but, if a man bites a dog that is news.) We are seeing reports of crime because the activity is unusual.
Therefore, we read about crime for several reasons. Firstly, the numbers of victims are horrendous, because a specific drug cartel wipes out an entire contingent of a competing cartel at a specific time creating a significant violent crime. Secondly, because of the efforts of the Mexican Government under the specific efforts of President Felipe Calderon, the cartels are under siege by the government as well as the competing cartels. Subsequently, those who are in the cartels are attacking those who are dedicated to eliminating the cartels: law enforcement professionals.
President Calderon is not only fighting crime, he is willing to travel the country to show that it is safe. Here he travels with Peter Greenberg:
We can expect that over time the Government will win this war, but the battles are dangerous for the police and the drug cartels. Those who choose to go to Mexico for some illegal activity (rather than those who go for legal business purposes or vacation) are much more likely to experience that violent crime.
It is common sense to use some caution in any unfamiliar environment. Be aware of those who are nearby. Avoid dark alleys when alone at 1:00 AM. Don’t flash $100.00 bills (or $1000 pesos) for everyone to see. It is easy to get smaller bills at the front desk of the your hotel.
There are many great books on safety while traveling. I read one many years ago, just before my first trip to New York City. At the time NYC was having a significant problem with gang violence. I needed to travel there for a business project and I was insecure. The tips that I read in one of these books eased my concerns and made the trip more pleasant.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Do your research. Crime is different in the various regions (states) of Mexico. Know where you are going and the dangers of the area. In my research, Prominix
is about the best site for statistics on crime in Mexico. Remember, that the percentage of unreported crime in Mexico is about 40% higher than that of the US or Canada. Yet these statistics can give a good synopsis of the crime by state in Mexico.
Finally, a word of caution when using statistics; the state data is a good source of reference. Yet, various areas of each state have different crime experiences. While one location of a given state may encounter a high rate of a specific crime, the rest of the state may have very little experience with that same crime.
At this point it should be obvious that this article is based on facts, but is, mostly, my personal opinion. However, even that opinion is based on experience. This past year I have visited Mexico three times. Those visits included three different states: Yucatan (see Cozumel, Chichen Itza,) Jalisco (see Lake Chapala Region, Guadalajara Sculptures) and Mexico City. At no time did I feel unsafe. While I seldom rely solely on feelings, I experienced no crime. Sure I saw what appeared to be some shady characters, but no more often than I see them in the Midwest of the United States.
Each person needs to understand his or her comfort level, and create travel plans on that self-knowledge. As for me, I look forward to my next trip to the beaches, culture architecture, and history of Mexico.