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Overseas Security Advisory Council
Bureau of Diplomatic Security
U.S. Department of State

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Mexico 2019 Crime & Safety Report: Monterrey

The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses Mexico at Level 2, indicating travelers should exercise increased caution due to crime. Reconsider travel to the state of Nuevo Leon.

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

The U.S. Consulate General in Monterrey does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The American Citizens’ Services unit (ACS) cannot recommend a particular individual or location, and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.

Review OSAC’s Mexico-specific webpage for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.

The Department of State divides its roles and responsibilities in Mexico among 10 consular districts spread across Mexico. This Crime and Safety Report focuses on the U.S. Consulate General in Monterrey's consular district, composed of the following five states: Nuevo Leon, San Luis Potosi, Durango, Zacatecas and the southern two-thirds of Coahuila. For information regarding the security environment in other areas of Mexico, please reference the OSAC Crime and Safety Reports from the following Consular Districts: Tijuana, Nogales, Hermosillo, Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros, Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Merida.

Crime Threats

There is significant risk from crime in Monterrey. Overall, crime and violence are serious problems and can occur anywhere. U.S. citizens have fallen victim to criminal activity in Monterrey’s Consular District, to include homicide, gun battles, kidnapping, carjacking, and highway robbery. Violent crime (e.g. kidnapping, extortion, homicide, sexual assault, personal robbery, residential break-ins) and non-violent crimes (e.g. financial scams, vehicle thefts, and petty drug crimes) continue to be a serious concern for those living or working in the district. Organized criminal elements contribute to the high level of crime in the region. While many of those killed in organized crime-related violence were involved in criminal activity, innocent bystanders have also died.

Reported homicides increased in most of Monterrey’s Consular District in 2018, with 2,528 total murders:

  • Coahuila: 257 cases (2.4% increase)
  • Durango: 186 cases (17.3% decrease)
  • Nuevo Leon: 825 cases (25.8% increase)
  • San Luis Potosi: 555 cases (5.9% increase)
  • Zacatecas: 705 cases (2.5% increase)

 

There were 1,049 reported extortion cases in Monterrey’s Consular District in 2018:

 

  • Coahuila: 32 cases
  • Durango: 75 cases
  • Nuevo Leon: 575 cases
  • San Luis Potosi: 124 cases
  • Zacatecas: 243 cases

 

Be very cautious when using ATMs in Mexico. If you must use an ATM, access it during regular business hours and at protected facilities, preferably inside commercial establishments, rather than at glass-enclosed, highly visible ATMs on streets. Criminals sometimes accost U.S. and Mexican citizens alike on the street, and forcing to withdraw money from their accounts using their ATM cards. ATM/credit card fraud takes place throughout the district, though statistics are limited. Be cautious when using credit cards. Be alert for skimming devices. Cards should not leave your sight; many businesses have portable card readers they bring straight to the customer. Upon returning home, examine statements for any unauthorized purchases. For more information, review OSAC’s report, The Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud.

Other Areas of Concern

Due to drug-related violence associated with Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs), U.S. government personnel may not drive between Monterrey and the U.S. border. U.S. government personnel in Monterrey may travel by air or land to the states of San Luis Potosi and Zacatecas using toll roads, and may overnight in their capitals. Personnel may travel to Durango using toll roads and overnight in the capital, except for travel to the city of Gomez Palacio or areas west and south of Highway 45. Personnel may also travel to areas south of Highway 40 in the state of Coahuila (e.g. Saltillo, Parras de la Fuente, Bosques de Monterreal), and within the state of Nuevo Leon via toll roads. U.S. government personnel in Monterrey must remain in San Pedro Garza Garcia from 0100-0600, except for travel to/from the airport.  

Transportation-Safety Situation

For more information, review OSAC’s report, Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Exercise caution when traveling by road, and avoid traveling at night. Traffic patterns change without notice due to road construction or maintenance, often causing major traffic jams throughout the city. Vehicular accidents are very common along the highways leading to/from the city, often due to aggressive driving. Travel with at least half a tank of gasoline, a spare tire, and a fully charged mobile phone. For more information on self-driving, review OSAC’s report, Driving Overseas: Best Practices.

The highway to Reynosa continues to see an increased level of violence. and is restricted for USG personnel; the highway to Laredo has seen markedly fewer incidents. Pay close attention to local news reports and Consulate messaging to reduce chances of encountering these situations. Toll roads, while generally safer, can also be targets for cartel-related carjacking.  

Throughout the highway system, travelers will often encounter checkpoints manned by the military. Be cautious at these checkpoints, but follow directions.

If stranded on the highway due to vehicle malfunction, dial 078 for roadside assistance. This service is provided free of charge by Mexico’s Department of Tourism to all road travelers.

  • Safeguard your vehicle while in the district:
  • If your spare tire mounts on the outside of your vehicle, secure it in place with chain/padlock or similar device.
  • Replace two lug nuts on each wheel with specially keyed bolts that lock or are removable only with a special attachment to your tire iron.
  • Avoid parking on the street. Park inside a residential compound, in a parking lot with an attendant, or at least within view of the location of your visit.

 

Public Transportation Conditions

Avoid hailing taxis directly off the street. Use dispatched taxis or hotel transportation services.

Other Travel Conditions

Use satellite phones; many areas in the district have limited or no mobile phone service.

Do not hitchhike or offer rides to strangers anywhere in Mexico.

Terrorism Threat

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats

There is minimal risk from terrorism in Monterrey. While there are no known local terrorist groups operating in Monterrey’s Consular District, the presence of TCOs has had a major impact on the security environment. Corruption is a serious problem, not only in the police but in other areas of government as well. Beheadings, torture, and other gruesome displays of violence occurred in the Consular District in 2018.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

Civil Unrest

There is significant risk from political violence in Monterrey. Large-scale public demonstrations or strikes are uncommon in Monterrey, but occasional, nationally organized protests do involve Monterrey. Most protests deal with local issues and do not pose a threat to U.S. citizens. Small, peaceful demonstrations occur periodically at various government buildings, including the Palacio del Gobierno (Government Palace) and Procuraduria General de Justicia (Mexican Attorney General’s office). These protests typically form along the city’s main arteries and may cause traffic jams.

Avoid demonstrations and other activities that Mexican authorities might deem political. The Constitution prohibits political activities by foreigners; such actions may result in detention and/or deportation.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Monterrey is prone to flash floods during the hurricane season. It is common for streets to flood and for parts of the city to be completely cut-off during periods of heavy rains. Avoid driving or walking in flooded areas. Every year, deadly floodwaters sweep pedestrians and vehicles away.

Critical Infrastructure

Industrial accidents are a concern in highly industrialized areas of the city and along rail lines. The state of Nuevo Leon has a highly trained team (Protección Civil) that can handle most industrial accidents, including HAZMAT spills.

Monterrey sits astride one of the busiest transportation corridors in Mexico; many of the highways are crowded with trucks laden with cargo.

Personal Identity Concerns

Women traveling alone are especially vulnerable and should exercise caution, particularly at night.

Same-sex sexual relations are legal in Mexico. The law provides for protections against discrimination based on gender identity. Travelers will find more openness and acceptance in urban areas, and conservative stances in rural areas.

Drug-related Crimes

The threat of TCO-related violence remains the most significant security concern in Monterrey’s Consular District. Police continue to confront the cartels and their associates, and these confrontations can result in shootouts on public roads. Following the confrontations, police frequently discover weapons to include assault rifles and in some cases explosives.

As the cartels’ senior leadership either dies or goes to prison, junior cartel members experiment with express kidnappings, extortion, and home robberies as methods to acquire money.

Kidnapping Threat

This year, there was a decrease in kidnappings in Monterrey’s Consular District. There were 106 kidnappings reported; 11 reported kidnappings had a U.S. nexus.

              

  • Coahuila: 11 kidnappings (13% decrease from 2017)
  • Durango: 6 kidnappings (60% decrease)
  • Nuevo Leon: 28 kidnappings (20% decrease)
  • San Luis Potosi: 20 kidnappings (29% decrease)
  • Zacatecas: 41 kidnappings (39% decrease)

 

In the Consular District, there have been cases of traditional, express, and virtual kidnappings. Traditional kidnappers physically abduct and hold victims captive until receiving a ransom for their release. Express kidnappers abduct a victim for a short time and force them to withdraw money from an ATM, before releasing them. Virtual kidnappers extort victims by deception, contacting a victim by phone and convincing them that they have abducted a family member or friend when they actually have not, extracting ransom regardless. Some travelers to Mexico staying at hotels have been targets of virtual kidnapping schemes.

Travelers should contact the police if they encounter any calls involving a demand for ransom. The U.S. Consulate advises that the families of kidnapping victims consider contacting local authorities to help resolve a kidnapping matter. Families of kidnapping victims who are U.S. citizens should contact the Consulate’s Americans Citizen Services office or the local FBI office for assistance. For more information, review OSAC’s report, Kidnapping: The Basics.

Police Response

Police response and professionalism varies widely depending on the municipality, and police response can vary widely depending on the type of emergency and area. State, federal, and military forces have stepped up the security coverage in an attempt to stabilize remote areas, although many remote areas remain largely underserved. Confidence in the police remains low in much of the Consular District. However, in the state of Nuevo Leon, the recently established Fuerza Civil has significantly improved security; it has been a model for other states in combating corruption.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

Police corruption continues to be a problem. Offering a bribe to a public official to avoid a traffic fine or other penalty is a crime in Mexico. U.S. citizens should cooperate if police stop or question them. If during a traffic stop or other detention the police demand a bribe, refuse to pay.

File complaint anonymously: 089

Nuevo Leon Anti-Corruption: 070

Detained or harassed U.S. visitors should contact American Citizens Services at +81 8047-3100 (after-hours emergency assistance +81 8362-9126.

Crime Victim Assistance

Although police services may not be similar to those in the U.S., contact the police in case of an emergency by dialing 911. For information regarding assistance for U.S. citizens who become victims of a crime, please contact the American Citizens Services office at +81 8047-3145 during work hours (0800-1700 Monday-Friday), or the Duty Officer at +81 8362-9126 outside work hours.

Medical Emergencies

Monterrey has adequate medical facilities. Facilities outside of the metropolitan area are more limited. In an emergency, dial 911, but note that wait times for ambulances can vary greatly. Permanent residents should contract with a private ambulance service to ensure prompt service.

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

For medical assistance, refer to the Consulate’s Medical Assistance page.

Insurance Guidance

Travelers should ensure that they have adequate health insurance while traveling. Local hospitals generally require payment in advance. Many U.S.-based health insurance plans do not cover travelers in Mexico, and medical procedures can sometimes result in bills of several thousand dollars.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Mexico.

OSAC Country Council Information

The Monterrey Country Council is active, meeting quarterly. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Latin America team with any question. 

U.S. Consulate Location and Contact Information

Consulate Address and Hours of Operation

U.S. Consulate General Monterrey

Prolongación Ave. Alfonso Reyes No. 150                            

Col. Valle Poniente                         

Santa Catarina, Nuevo León, Mexico 66196

Business hours: 0800-1700

Consulate Contact Numbers

Switchboard: (81) 8047-3100

After hours, U.S. citizens needing emergency assistance may call the duty officer at (81) 8362-9126.

Website: https://mx.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/monterrey/

Nearby Posts: Embassy Mexico City, Consulate Ciudad Juarez, Consulate Guadalajara, Consulate Hermosillo, Consulate Matamoros, Consulate Mérida, Consulate Nogales, Consulate Nuevo Laredo, Consulate Tijuana

Consulate Guidance

Register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).

Additional Resource: Mexico Country Information Sheet

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