Safe In Mexico

 Safe In Mexico On Vacation

Cozumel remains the safest place

Staying safe in Mexico on vacation Is it really safe to vacation in Mexico? Staying safe in Mexico on vacationPerception is everything when it comes to crime and, generally, the perception is bad for Mexico: it is seen as ground zero for a vicious battle between warring cartels, each vying to take territory from the other. The body count is staggering, pushing the number of murders in Mexico over 25,000.

The headlines are even more frightening when American and Canadian tourists get caught in the cross fire or fall victim to street robberies. Tourists are concerned for their safety.

Is this true? Is Mexico rife with violent crime? Yes and No. Mexico is a massive country of 127.5 million people covering nearly two million square kilometers with 37 different provinces, each with their own crime profile which is usually associated with their role in the cartels drug pipelines to the United States.

So,Staying safe in Mexico on vacation it depends on where in Mexico you plan to vacation and, where you stay and how you conduct yourself on vacation.

And there are many things you can do to be safe on vacation whether you choose to go to Mexico or the United States.

First, let’s understand the statistics in context, away from the headlines. Then we’ll examine what to look for when choosing a vacation and, finally, we’ll offer some tips from the front lines and examples of what not to do and what to do.

 Understanding the Numbers

 Mexico has less than half the population of the United State and four times that of the U.S. and Canada which have nearly 10 million square kilometers each though in Canada most of it is uninhabited.

But the crime comparisons are in the murder and violent crime rates and it is not pretty:

  • In Canada there are 1.56 homicides per 100,000 residents;
  • In the United States there are about 4.9 murders per 100,000
  • In Mexico there are 20.5 murders per 100,000 people, 2018 being the worst on record.
    In fact, Mexico’s national murder rate is lower than Murder City USA, which surprisingly was St. Louis, Missouri a murder rate of 59.29 per 100,000.

So, is it safe to vacation in Cozumel? The answer is yes, with some cautions.

First, the crime rate in Cozumel is a fraction of that on the mainland.

Visitors report they feel safer in <> Cozumel than in their own cities and murders are rare. Yet travel advisories were issued for the region in 2018 after a ferry bombing n February <>

What gives?
Cozumel is in the state of Quintana Roo which also includes Cancun and Playa Del Carmen and the Mexican Riviera. Those destinations haves not escaped the cartel violence which has overwhelmed the western states of Guerrero, Jalisco, Sinaloa and Baja California Sur.

Quintana Roo’s murder rate has doubled in the last year but there’s also an asterisk on it. With a population of 1.33 million people it reported 326 murders of which 318 were <linked to inter-drug cartel wars.>

Study: 2017 Was Deadliest Year in Mexico for Homicides Linked to Organized Crime

Quintana Roo’s non-cartel murder rate was about 6 per 100,000 which matches <Michigan’s rate> which is not the most dangerous state in the U.S.

However, the Quintana Roo’s image has been severely damaged by the homicides which in turn has put a dent in the tourist industry worth US$20 billion a year so accordingly the authorities have stepped up enforcement and security. Making things worse, a battle between ferry operators is thought to be behind the bombing of a ferry in February 2018. It was that incident which triggered the travel advisory for the region and, perhaps, unfairly, included Cozumel.

What To Look For when choosing a Vacation

Cozumel remains one of the safest destination in the Caribbean and the number one cruise ship destination in Mexico. Every year 1,106 ships come and go from San Miguel port discharging tens of thousands of passengers to explore and enjoy the <island paradise.>

“I can’t even remember the last time we actually had a murder down here,” says Dennis Anderson, owner-operator of <Hotel and Restaurant Villa Deja Blue> in Corpus Christie, an upscale neighborhood of San Miguel, the main city of Cozumel. “Sure, there is crime, most of it property crime such as break ins and thefts from vehicles. Like any city you have to use your common sense.”

For those with a low risk tolerance, there are the all inclusive hotels along the western shore line about 20 to 30 minutes outside of San Miguel. These gated and walled resorts completely safe.

They have security guards on duty through out and access is limited to employees and guests only.

However, safety can also mean boring and many travelers want to explore the island and the city of San Miguel which is becoming famous for it’s selection of fine cosmopolitan restaurants as much as the beachfront palapa bars. Then, of course, there’s the shopping in the city and the fabulous beaches on the eastern side along with fun restaurants like Rasta’s.

Deja Blue is a short walk to the town centers Plaza Del Sol, a natural gathering place for locals and tourists alike to take in the paseo, the evening stroll, under the stars and moon. It is also just a few minutes walk to the major supermarkets Chedraui and <Mega> (now rebranded as Soriana) where you’ll find a wide selection of fresh fruits, vegetables, baked goods, fresh meats, sea food and shelves stocked with dry good, beer, wine and liquors all at great prices.

Deja Blue units are set up with a kitchen so many guests stock up on food and refreshments for their stay. Then they go out for lunch or dinner are the fantastic restaurants of Cozumel offering everything from local Mexican food to Argentinean grills, great Italian and more. All are an easy, safe walk, day or night or quick taxi ride away.

Because it’s in an urban setting, Anderson is vigilant about security. Villa Deja Blue is a boutique hotel with a limited number of select guests and it’s not the kind of place where non-guests can come and go.

“First, no-one other than guests are allowed in,” he says. “That’s carved in stone. There’s a locked gate at the pool courtyard with a steel fence. It’s totally secure but that doesn’t mean squat if we just let people wander in and out. The guest here don’t lock their rooms half the time because they feel so safe and we aim to keep it that way. Security is everything. No outside guests period.”

Dennis and his wife Silvia also live on the premises so they’re always keeping a watchful eye. The only area where the public comes and goes is their popular restaurant La Cocina De Silvia <”>

which serves the best value and most delicious breakfast on the island.

Staying Safe In Cozumel

It’s no secrets tourists bring money with them when they travel. They also bring valuable things like cameras, watches and jewelry.To a local who makes less than US$2 a day, if they’re lucky, a simple robbery can  be years’ pay check.

“Cozumel has changed,” says Anderson, “there’s no point in covering that up. Back in the day, there was almost no crime here. Locals might get liquored up on tequila and get into trouble, but generally, everyone respected the tourists because that’s the income for the island.”
More recently the problem has been juveniles coming across from the mainland looking to score some easy hits, either breaking into houses which are often unoccupied, stealing from cars, especially rental vehicles.
“Lately there’s been an issue with them working on a scooter or motorcycle,” says Anderson. “They’ll come up behind someone and the passenger will knock them down and grab their purse or wallet and then take off.”

Local police have stepped up their patrols and have been making arrests but Anderson says the best advice is not to be conspicuous:

*Expensive jewelry like gold chains or bracelets are an unnecessary adornment on the casual, laid back island of Cozumel. Leave it at home.

*Carry only as much cash as you need, no more than US$100 or $150 in greenbacks or pesos and keep the roll tucked deep into your pockets while drawing only from a smaller roll lest someone see you as a target.

*Expensive cameras with big lenses are target. Get a small backpack and be discreet.

*Don’t walk alone at night through the back streets. Stay on the main road running by the ocean front. Take a taxi if you’re coming or going from the deeper parts of San Miguel.

*Watch your alcohol intake. Booze is cheap in Cozumel and there are lots of bars. Getting drunk and wandering off to a “party” with your new best friend probably won’t end well.

*Don’t buy drugs off the street. As in any destination or city there are street dealers who offer pot and cocaine. Remember, no matter how cool you are back home, you probably don’t score on the street. Why take unnecessary risks?

“Most of it is just common sense no matter where you go,” says Anderson. “There are some places at home you probably would not be walking around with a wad of cash late at night. Same applies on vacation no matter where you go, Miami or Cozumel.”

By Dennis Anderson

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