So is it just the rest of Mexico that has the problem?
Well… no! As ever, the devil is in the detail.
It is understandable that people worry about their safety when they travel, but some of that factual data is worth repeating here:
- “When it came to homicides with firearms, the US ranked 7th in the world and Mexico 17th, (39.56 per 100,000 vs. Mexico’s 20.6). Yes, that means the US has 92% more homicides with guns than Mexico."
- "Recent FBI statistics show the murder rate per 100,000 inhabitants in Baltimore is 43.3, Washington D.C. is 29.1 and Detroit is 47. Mexico, however, which has an especially violent reputation, recorded a murder rate of about 10 per 100,000."
- “Mexico is roughly the size of Western Europe with a population of 112m. Of Mexico’s 2,500 municipalities, only 18 have been considered to be a security problem.......that leaves 2482 very safe places if you want to travel to Mexico... the majority of Mexico’s organized-crime related violence took place in only three of Mexico’s 31 states: Chihuahua, Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon. Los Cabos is in Baja California – a lifetime away from these states.”
- “More drive-by shootings occur in an average Los Angeles week than have ever taken place in nearly more than three decades in Cabo San Lucas.”
- “According to FBI crime statistics, Mexico is twice as safe for Texans, than Texas (and three times safer than Houston).”
American late night television talk show host and former stand-up comedian, Jay Leno joked recently, that, "If you're worried about drug gangs and drug cartels, don't travel to Los Angeles."
Here at iTravel-Cabo.com we are committed to providing visitors with accurate, impartial advice on everything related to Los Cabos and crime statistics, and the relative threat of crime in Cabo, is an important issue that should not be ignored, brushed aside or diminished with easy platitudes like “you are at more risk from the sun...”
To suggest that there is no crime in Los Cabos would be as irresponsible as to suggest that it is too dangerous to travel here at all. Mexico’s Ministry of Tourism announced in February, that 2011 was a record-breaking year in which the country saw 22.67 million international travellers, so amongst that volume of tourists there are bound to be some isolated incidents.
The key for visitors is to minimize any potential risk to them or their families, in exactly the same way that they would seek to minimize such risks at home!
People tend to focus in on the headline crimes – major events such as homicides. Stanford University conducted detailed research on the homicide rate across all of Mexico’s states between 1990 and 2010. In the area of Baja Sur, where Los Cabos are located, there were a total of 4 homicides recorded in that 10 year period! Their findings were published on this interactive map.
So we think it safe to say that the risk of serious violence in Los Cabos is negligible and any other risks are much more likely to be of a minor sort which, whilst inconvenient and undoubtedly distressing at the time, will not be life-threatening!
There's a special branch of the Ministerio Publico or District Attorney's offices located on the second floor of the Puerto Paraiso Mall near Caliente Sportsbook and Casino next to Intercam Business Center. Very few visitors know of it; however it is the place to file reports of petty crimes or even traffic related incidents.
The office is under the management and leadership of Veronica Ortega, an attorney who is fluent in English, as is her staff. Their job is to handle any incidents that may occur to tourists and to resolve them quickly. Office hours are from 9 am to 3 pm, but people can call her cell phone any time (624) 355-8662. Her office number is 143-0993.
One area of concern to many visitors was the dubious reputation of Mexico’ Law Enforcement officers, particularly with respect to tourists in rental cars. Local officials have done a lot recently to change this. One of the more interesting laws that went into effect in 2010 was a City Ordinance and law prohibiting Mexican law enforcement officers from pulling over anyone driving a rental car. This eliminated the risk of any potential extortion opportunities that were much talked about by tourists stung by "mordidas" or "shakedowns" by corrupt cops getting a "taste" of the tourist action and money.
Of course – it is possible to find lurid stories on many websites about problems in Mexican resorts, however careful reading of the text often shows that the “evidence” is anecdotal and eye-witness accounts are hard to find. It is even harder to find any official reports from the relevant authorities on these “crimes”. This is especially true about many of the online accounts about problems in Los Cabos, and the anecdotal reports that ARE there are always countered by a veritable deluge of comments and blogs from local US ex-pats who actually live in Los Cabos, debunking the stories as exaggeration or myth.
Our CEO is a well-travelled man, having spent many years travelling throughout Asia, Africa, the Indian Ocean and Central America, so we think that his opinion has some value here: “For me, there is no doubt that Los Cabos is the safest place I have ever visited. I can walk around downtown Cabo at any time of the day or the night without any fear whatsoever. Like anywhere else, you have to use common sense and if you go looking for trouble then trouble is sure to find you; but you can go out and have a great time, eat some great food, listen to great music in some great clubs and bars, stay out as late as you like…and you can do so in complete safety! Los Cabos is a trouble free destination – be in no doubt.”
Los Cabo's selection in 2012 as host to the G20 summit further testified to the fact that the area is safe and that the Mexican Government has taken great measures to help maintain its position that Mexico is a safe destination.
It is important to understand that Baja California cities like Cabo San Lucas, San Jose del Cabo, Todos Santos, East Cape and La Paz have never been the subject of US State Department advisories and warnings.
Los Cabos has indeed blossomed into one of the most beautiful resort areas in Mexico and continues to be one of the safest. "There are no problems at all here, except maybe the dangers of getting a sunburn of you ain't careful," said restaurant host, Jose Trinidad Sotelo, who has been living in San Lucas for 6 years after moving to this beach vacation paradise from Guerrero, Mexico.
And while a few American and Canadian visitors pointed out awhile back in local print media that Cabo is a tourist town and does not really possess that "Old True Mexico" feel, it does however provide that very "safe" feel.
"You are closer to the violence in California than when you are in Cabo" said one internet Caboholic on a travel advisory website. While others joined in saying mostly the same thing, that traveling to Cabo is safe. "The events you hear about in the media have absolutely nothing to do with and events that are nowhere near Cabo San Lucas. Everyone has to make up their own minds about this kind of question, but for me I think it is safe to go to Cabo anytime," said another online person leaving his comment to reassure anyone with apprehensions about vacationing where the rich and famous arrive to relax and immerse themselves in this Land's End tranquillity and sunshine.
"I have been traveling to Cabo for thirty years. It's safe and always has been. I take my wife, daughters and grandchildren with me", said a retired law enforcement officer.
"The people are about as nice as you'll find and want to make your vacation the best." mentioned another long time visitor of Cabo on the very same travel website while a California woman added, "We have been traveling to Cabo with both of our daughters since our youngest was 2 years old. It is very safe and beautiful. I feel safer in Cabo than I do in some areas of Los Angeles and San Diego."
And it doesn't end with one website, several other media outlets have people saying the very same thing, "We never once felt unsafe in Cabo San Lucas, it was recommended we take a taxi back to our hotel from downtown instead of walking and we did." said one lady from Minnesota while another commented she has been to Cabo San Lucas 6 times, and absolutely loves it, echoing the same sentiment as many others, "Safety has never been an issue. The violence friends and family worry about is a 2 day drive from Cabo."
A local female also chimed in with her comment about living in Cabo for 3 months every year (Dec, Jan, Feb) and has never had any problems at all. "I am a blonde female and by myself, wander all over, traditionally staying away from touristy areas" she boldly added. Another person spoke of going every year to get away from all the local drug and hate crimes in her home of Long Island, New York. And yet another single woman excitedly stated recently, "I am leaving for Cabo this weekend! I am traveling alone and feel completely safe to do so."
The CEO of a travel website reports that, "Cabo is one of the safest places in Mexico, especially if tourists are staying at an upscale resort. As in any country, I advise our website visitors not to wear too much flash when outside their resort, and always use the hotel safe to leave their valuables. My company sends hundreds of couples every year to Cabo and we would be the first to hear if it were not safe."
The Mexican government isn't completely inept and they know the importance of tourism to the Mexican economy. And that knowing that, they will do whatever it takes to protect that source of national income.
“We have over 15,000 foreigners living in Baja California Sur,” says Marco Ehrenberg, Baja California Sur’s director of international relations. “Many of the rich and famous still choose Cabo as their number one destination. Don’t you think they've done their homework? Why do we have the best hotels and the highest number of private air travel in México for a tourist destination? Because Los Cabos is safe, fun, and friendly.”
“México is a big, incredibly diverse country, so drug violence along the border does not have any effect on a vacation in Los Cabos,” adds Miroslava Bautista Sánchez, the Los Cabos secretary of tourism. “Thousands of flights, cruise lines, and private yachts choose Los Cabos as their travel destination. Why? Because Los Cabos is a symbol of a peaceful place to visit and to live.”
Travel writer Kyle Ellison recently wrote about a recent trip to Mexico at a dot.com travel site and blogged the following statement “While I could rattle statistics off from a slew of different sources, the bottom line and the main point which needs to be made is that traveling to Mexico is no more dangerous than living in any major global city. Of the 60 countries I’ve wandered through and after 20 plus visits to Mexico, you know where I’ve felt the most in danger? When I got lost on the south side of Chicago.” Ellison went on to add that he considers the “real, true victims” of Mexico’s drug violence – to be the “peace-loving, everyday Mexican citizens who rely on tourism dollars to survive.”
Mexican governor Roberto Borge of Quintana Roo (Cancun) confronted the issue of American media headlines on drug cartel violence, stating that while cartel violence is indeed a problem, it is concentrated in very small areas of Mexico and that this violence does not affect tourists. “Mexico has 112 million citizens,” he said. “Are there more good Mexicans than bad? Yes. There are more than 2,500 municipalities in Mexico, and the majority of violence is in 12 of them. Has one tourist been involved in that violence? Not one.” In fact, when one compares death rates, in one to one ratios, like apples to apples, Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen and Cabo San Lucas are more safe than most travel destinations anywhere in the world.
After returning from a family trip in early May on the East Cap of Baja California, Author of another travel blog/website, Melissa Gaskill, says she felt just as safe as she would in her central Austin, Texas neighborhood. “The food is great, the culture rich, the landscape absolutely beautiful. Simply crossing it off anyone's travel list is a loss for everyone."
Experts on travel to Mexico maintain that visitors will find Cabo San Lucas as a safe and welcoming destination. Zachary Rabinor, CEO of Journey Mexico, voted one of the world’s best adventure-travel companies by National Geographic, believes it is safe for tourists to travel to Mexico’s beach resort areas. “Of course, it’s necessary to take normal precautions as one would when traveling anywhere abroad,” he is quoted as saying.
Lonely Planet’s New York-based U.S. Travel Editor Robert Reid, who has been going to Mexico since he was a child, adds to the chorus of travel writers and reporters who consider the warnings against travel to Mexico to be out of clarity. While citing that the drug violence in Mexico should be taken seriously, he also asks travellers to be sensible and consider the facts. Writing to say that, "What you don’t get from most reports in the US is statistical evidence that Americans are less likely to face violence on average in Mexico than at home, particularly when you zero in on Mexico’s most popular vacation destinations."
According to a San Francisco Chronicle news story, Mexico’s tourism industry is bouncing back in a very big way.
Other safety concerns not covered by American Press hysteria is Cabo's water safety warnings about tourists not swimming out further than they are capable of swimming back, not swimming alone and not getting intoxicated before or during any water activities.
Visiting pedestrians are also advised to use caution while crossing the streets and observe the condition of the sidewalks to avoid trips and falls. Most sidewalks in Los Cabos have cracked or uneven surfaces and pot holes caused by storms and years of disrepair and neglect. And like in any resort vacation spot in Mexico, Vegas or Florida, tourists are warned to beware of pickpockets when out on the town, partying down.
Mexican Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo authorities also do not tolerate excessive drinking and disorderly behavior. It is illegal to disturb the peace, act in a lewd or indecent way, litter, drive drunk, or make foul or insulting remarks to others. The penalties for drug possession and use are especially severe in Los Cabos as authorities can hold someone in jail for up to a year before their case is even tried. So be safe and avoid purchasing drugs, anywhere.
The Mexican government has deployed federal police and military personnel throughout the country as part of its efforts to combat the drug cartel related criminal activity. U.S. citizens traveling on Mexican roads and highways may encounter government checkpoints, which are often staffed by military or law enforcement personnel and while they were heavily present at the G20 in July 2012, they are seldom seen during these wonderful quiet and very safe days of fall and winter.