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Mexico 2013 Crime and Safety Report: Monterrey

Western Hemisphere > Mexico > Monterrey

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

The U.S. Consulate General in Monterrey's Consular district is comprised of five Mexican states: Nuevo Leon, San Luis Potosi, Durango, Zacatecasm and most of the southern area of Coahuila. For this report, statistics include the entire state of Coahuila.  

Crime Threats

Crime victims, who are almost always unaccompanied, have been raped, robbed of personal property, or abducted and then held while their credit cards were used at various businesses and Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs). U.S. and Mexican citizens are sometimes accosted on the street and forced to withdraw money from their accounts using their ATM cards.

While Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCO)-related homicides are down by 44 percent in Durango, violence remains elevated and has targeted elected officials and public prosecutors. Nuevo Leon is 22 percent lower than for the same time period (January to November) in 2011.

Overall Road Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

If traveling by road, travelers should exercise caution at all times and avoid traveling at night whenever possible. It is recommended to have at least half a tank of gasoline when traveling in more remote areas and defer movement at night along isolated highways. In addition, travelers should not hitchhike or offer rides to strangers anywhere in Mexico.  

Certain main routes in and out of Monterrey have seen cartel initiated carjackings and blockades. In the past year, the highway to Reynosa has seen a constant level of violence and carjackings/kidnappings, while the highway to Laredo has seen markedly fewer incidences. Toll roads, while generally safer, can also be targets for cartel-related carjackings.   

The city of Monterrey is still continuing to rebuild from Hurricane Alex, and as a result traffic patterns change without notice, and traffic is often-times severely impacted causing major traffic jams throughout the city.

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. More information on the services offered can be found on their website: http://www.sectur.gob.mx/wb2/sectur/sect_9453_angeles_verdes
 
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

The threat from international terrorist groups is low.

Civil Unrest

Large scale public demonstrations or strikes are rare. Small peaceful demonstrations occur periodically at the Mexican Procuderia (Mexican Attorney General) office near the U.S. Consulate. These protests typically formed along main arteries around the city and may cause traffic jams. The Mexican Constitution prohibits political activities by foreigners, and 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 from other areas during periods of heavy rains. Avoid driving or walking in flooded areas. Every year, a number of deaths are attributed to pedestrians or vehicles being swept away by rushing water in flooded areas. 

In July 2010, Hurricane Alex caused tremendous damage to the roads around Monterrey and especially to those near river beds. The city is still continuing to rebuild from Hurricane Alex. 

Industrial and Transportation Accidents

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 (Proteccion Civil) that can handle most industrial accidents, including hazmat spills. Vehicular accidents are very common along the highways leading to and from the city and are often due to aggressive driving behavior. Monterrey sits astride one of the busiest transportation corridors in Mexico, and many of the highways are crowded with trucks laden with cargo.  

Privacy Concerns

There are no privacy concerns in Monterrey in terms of hacker groups or targeted digital thieves. There are incidents of credit card scammers and skimmers.

Regional Travel Concerns and Restricted Travel Areas/Zones

Due to drug-related violence associated to TCOs, travel is heavily restricted for U.S. government (USG) personnel. USG personnel are not permitted to drive to or from the U.S. border to Monterrey. Additionally, they are not allowed to travel to Coahuila or Durango states. Travel is permitted only by air to San Luis Potosi and Zacatecas. Travel is permitted within the state of Nuevo Leon on a limited, pre-approved basis. 

Drug-related Crimes

Drug-related violence is reaching all time highs in northeastern Mexico. The levels of drug-related violence have jumped 49 percent in San Luis Potosi, 38 percent in Coahuila, and 31 percent in Zacatecas for January-November compared to the same period last year. The cartels have locked horns in what appears to be a long-term struggle for supremacy and survival. Many civilians have been caught in the crossfire between rival cartels or cartels and the military. On August 25, 2011, TCOs set a local casino on fire that led to the deaths of 52 people. In October 2011, a vehicle borne incendiary device (VBIED) was used against a military convoy in Monterrey. A prison riot in February resulted in 44 dead cartel members, and 37 rival cartel members escaped during the infighting. In another gruesome incident in 2012, 49 mutilated bodies were dumped in Nuevo Leon; their identities are still unknown. Local media has gone as far as to provide public service announcements on television and in the newspapers, advising citizens what they should do if caught in the middle of an armed encounter. 

Additionally, throughout the Consular district, there have been numerous, high-profile instances of violence: In February 2012, an apparent prison riot concealed the escape of 30 inmates from a prison in Apodaca, Nuevo Leon. In all, 44 inmates died, and 30 escaped. During one 36-hour period in August in Nuevo Leon, 22 individuals were killed. In October 2012, a prisoner transfer of 46 federal prisoners ended with one inmate dead, at least 18 wounded, and approximately 41 police officers injured at the La Pila Prison in the San Luis Potosi capital. On August 16, 2012, 14 bodies were dumped on the highway from San Luis Potosi to Zacatecas. Zacatecas also had nine bodies dumped in Fresnillo. In December 2012, at the prison in Gomez Palacio, Durango, 24 inmates were killed during an apparent escape attempt. These incidents are merely a sampling of the high profile violence seen throughout the Monterrey consular district.

Additionally, various cartel propaganda banners (narco-mantas) continue to appear throughout the consular district. The narco-mantas contain messages to local authorities, such as law enforcement personnel and government officials, and rival cartels in the area. The narco-mantas are a propaganda tool used to threaten opponents or as a means to institute authority in a given plaza (drug-trafficking corridor).

Kidnapping Threats

Overall, official abduction rates for the greater Monterrey remain at a high-level. Experts estimate that there are probably one or two kidnappings a day in Monterrey; that number is significantly higher if parts of suburban Monterrey, like San Pedro and Apodaca, are included. Kidnapping, however, is widely underreported in Mexico, in large part due to civilian fears of police collusion with kidnappers. This fear has proven to be accurate in several instances. In a particularly unsettling incident in 2011, one of the local police departments was using its jail cells to house approximately 17 kidnapping victims for an unknown period of time. Fortunately, state and federal authorities raided the jail, rescued all the victims, and arrested the police officers. Another factor in the disparity of reporting revolves around the differences between U.S. and Mexican criminal code definitions for that particular crime. Those who survived relayed stories of horrific encounters at the hands of their abductors that often times included torture and rape. Certain kidnapping groups appear to operate with some level of impunity and TCO protection that makes the already stretched-thin, anti-kidnapping unit’s jobs exponentially more difficult. 

As reported in 2010 and 2011, kidnapping groups continue to target mid-level Mexican business executives and entrepreneurs. The U.S. Consulate General Monterrey was apprised of 16 kidnappings of U.S. citizens in 2012; three were confirmed dead, and the remaining cases are unsolved. These numbers do not account for unreported kidnappings. In some kidnapping cases, the victim is killed even after a ransom has been paid.

Virtual kidnapping continues to be a tool cartels will use, though it has not been as prevalent as in prior years. Extortionists call prospective victims on the telephone, posing as kidnappers, and demand payments in return for the release of an allegedly detained family member, usually a child. 

Police Response

Police response and professionalism varies widely depending on the municipality in the Monterrey metropolitan area. A few police departments are well-trained, well-paid, and professional while others may not be as efficient or responsive. Police response can also vary widely depending on the type of emergency. State, federal, and military forces have taken up the security responsibilities to an attempt to stabilize these remote areas. 

The Mayor of Monterrey announced that 504 Navy (SEMAR)-trained police officers will be added to the recently renamed Policia Municipal de Monterrey to replace the Monterrey police force (Policia Regia). The transition occurred in November 2012 and, so far, appears that it will continue into the foreseeable future. As a result, Monterrey fired its entire transit police. The Mayor announced the officers will receive a municipal salary of approximately USD$1,075 per month, similar to that of the Fuerza Civil. The new civilian police is comprised of 324 men and 180 women. The Mayor clarified, however, that the new police will begin patrols gradually as they receive their weapons permits and are registered in Plataforma Mexico, a federal database.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment 

Police corruption, as widely reported by the media, continues to be a problem. Offering a bribe to a public official to avoid a traffic fine or other penalty is a crime. If during a traffic stop or other detention, the police demand a bribe, visitors should refuse to pay it.  

Although police services may not be equal to those in the U.S., visitors are strongly encouraged to contact the police in an emergency (066). U.S. citizens are advised to cooperate with the police if stopped or questioned. For information regarding assistance for American citizens who become victims of a crime, please contact the American Citizen Services office at (81)8047-3145 during work hours 8 a.m. -5 p.m., Monday through Friday, or the Duty Officer at (81)8362-9126 outside work hours.
Police/Emergency: 066
Red Cross/Ambulance: 065
Roadside Assistance: 075
Information: 040

Nuevo Leon Anti-corrupción/corruptel: 070

Various Police/Security Agencies 

NUEVO LEON:
Federal Police: Federal police force particularly focused on combating organized crime.
Fuerza Civil: Nuevo Leon State police force. Newly emplaced, more professional and higher paid.
Nuevo Leon State Police: Mostly replaced by Fuerza Civil, the remaining officers used primarily to guard government facilities in Nuevo Leon.
Policia ministerial o agencia estatal de investigaciones (AEI): Group charged with criminal investigations for the respective state in which they work.
Policia Regia: Monterrey's municipal police force. (See above commentary on the Mexican military’s takeover of the Monterrey police force).

COAHUILA:
Federal Police
Coahuila State Police
Policia ministerial o agencia estatal de investigaciones (AEI)
Torreon Municipal Police
Saltillo Municipal Police

ZACATECAS:
Federal Police
Zacatecas State Police
Policia ministerial o agencia estatal de investigaciones (AEI)
Zacatecas Municipal Police

DURANGO:
Federal Police
Durango State Police  
Policia ministerial o agencia estatal de investigaciones (AEI)
Durango Municipal Police

SAN LUIS POTOSI:
Federal Police
San Luis Potosi State Police
Policia ministerial o agencia estatal de investigaciones (AEI)
San Luis Potosi Municipal Police

Medical Emergencies

Contact Information for Recommended Local Hospitals and Clinics 

Monterrey has adequate medical facilities. Facilities outside of the metropolitan area are more limited. In an emergency, dial 066 or 065 for an ambulance. Wait times for ambulances can vary greatly. Permanent residents are encouraged to contract a private ambulance service in order to ensure prompt service.

The hospitals used most frequently by American visitors are:
San Jose Hospital 
Av. Morones Prieto No. 3000 PTE
Monterrey, N.L. 64710
(81) 8347-1011

Hospital Christus Muguerza
Av. Hidalgo 2525 Pte.
Colonia Obispado
Monterrey, N.L. 
(81)8399-3400

Hospital Cima Santa Engracia 
Av. Frida Kahlo #180
San Pedro Garza Garcia, N.L. 66260
(81) 8368-7788

CDC Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

Please see the latest information on the CDC’s website at: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/mexico.htm

Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Crimes/Scams

Virtual kidnapping, credit card fraud.

Areas to be Avoided and Best Security Practices

Avoid night time travel and remote areas of the Consular District.

Although Monterrey is reported to have lower non-drug-related crime rates than other Mexican cities, visitors are urged to remain vigilant and use common sense during their stay. Local drug consumption and trafficking has increased in the last several years, leading to increased territorial disputes and violence between cartels. Travelers should leave valuables and irreplaceable items in a safe place or at home. All visitors are encouraged to make use of hotel safes where available, avoid wearing expensive jewelry, and carry only the cash or credit cards that will be needed on each outing.

Because of the increased threat of narco-related violence and crime, the U.S. Consulate Monterrey limites travel of its employees to the states of Durango and Coahuila. Portions of Nuevo Leon, San Luis Potosi, and Zacatecas are also limited for U.S. Consulate employees. USG employees must also follow a curfew of 12am through 6am. While the general public is not forbidden from visiting places described as “defer non-essential travel,” USG personnel will not be able to respond quickly to an emergency situation in those areas due to security precautions that must be taken to travel to those areas. 

Visitors should be aware of their surroundings at all times, even when in areas generally considered safe. Use of street or gypsy taxis is strongly discouraged. Visitors are recommended to utilize radio taxis or hotel transportation services. Women traveling alone are especially vulnerable and should exercise caution, particularly at night. U.S. citizens should be very cautious in general when using ATMs. If an ATM must be used, it should be accessed only during the business day at large protected facilities (preferably inside commercial establishments, rather than at glass-enclosed, highly visible ATMs on streets).  

Travelers should pay close attention to local news reports and Consulate Warden Messages to reduce their chances of encountering carjackings and/or kidnappings.

It is recommended that travelers avoid demonstrations and other activities that might be deemed political by the Mexican authorities.

The U.S. Consulate recommends that kidnapping victims’ families consider contacting local authorities to help resolve a kidnapping matter. Families of kidnapping victims who are U.S. citizens should contact their local FBI office for assistance. Persons receiving virtual kidnapping calls should be extremely skeptical; most such demands or threats are baseless. Persons receiving such calls should contact the local police immediately by dialing 066. Those living in Monterrey are advised to have unlisted land line numbers and screen calls from unknown numbers by using an answering machine. It is also advisable that family members have a “code word” that is used in case any family member does receive a kidnapping call; they are able to test the veracity of the kidnapping by asking for the password.

U.S. Embassy/Consulate Location and Contact Information

Consulate Address and Hours of Operation

U.S. Consulate General Monterrey
Av Constitucion #411 PTE
Monterrey, N.L. 64006
Tel: (81) 8047-3100
Business hours: 0800-1700
After hours, American Citizens needing emergency assistance from the Consulate may call the duty officer at (81) 8362-9126.  

As exceptionally violent situations erupt, notices will be sent by and posted on Embassy or Consulate websites indicating the nature of the concern and the expected time period for which the restriction would remain in place. Travelers are encouraged to keep apprised of current Travel Warnings via http://travel.state.gov/, and U.S. Citizens are encouraged to register in the Smart Traveler's Enrollment Program.

OSAC Country Council Information

Monterrey has re-established its OSAC Country Council. The Regional Security Officer from January 2013-July 2013, is Maria DeLeon, deleonm@state.gov, 52 81 8047-3100 ext. 3206. From July 2013-July 2015, the RSO is Steven D'Angelo, D'AngeloS@state.gov.