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Mexico 2013 Crime and Safety Report: Guadalajara

Western Hemisphere > Mexico > Guadalajara

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

The Consular district of the U.S. Consulate General in Guadalajara includes the Mexican states of Nayarit, Jalisco, Colima, and Aguascalientes. The major cities for the U.S. private sector community include: Guadalajara, Aguascalientes, Puerto Vallarta, and Manzanillo. Secondary cities include Tepic, Colima City, Tequila, and Lagos de Moreno. There are also important private sector concerns in more rural areas due to agriculture, with agave cultivation in particular, throughout southern Nayarit and Jalisco.   

Crime Threats

There are high rates of violent and non-violent crime throughout the Consular district. A majority of violent crime, particularly homicide and kidnapping, is perpetrated by transnational criminal organizations (TCOs), and the victims are most often rival groups or Mexican authorities. The homicide rate in Jalisco fell slightly in 2012 from 2011, but it remains well above 2010 or any previous years on record. Some 65 percent of the homicides in Jalisco occurred in one of the five municipalities (Guadalajara, Zapopan, Tlaquepaque, Tonalá, and Tlajomulco) making up the Guadalajara Metropolitan Zone (GMZ). This roughly corresponds to the percentage of the state’s population that lives in the GMZ. In 2012, Jalisco had a murder rate of 20.6 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants. Guadalajara had a rate of 22.4. In Nayarit, after two years with exceptionally high homicide rates (2010 and 2011), the numbers were greatly reduced in 2012. In 2011, the homicide rate in Tepic was so high the city earned the distinction of being one of the 50 most dangerous cities in the world. In 2012, state police have become much more active in combating organized criminal elements throughout the state and now regularly arrest alleged TCO members for drug trafficking, murder, and kidnapping. The murder rate in 2012 was likely much closer to the national average. In Colima, the homicide rate rose sharply in 2012, leaving the state with one of the highest per capita murder rates in Mexico. Though most of the increase in homicides in Colima was due to criminals targeting criminals, the increase in violence poses a risk to civilians in the area. 

Aguascalientes, on the other hand, continued to be one of the safest states in Mexico during 2012. While isolated cases of murder and kidnapping continue to be reported, the state police are among the most effective and have managed to arrest wanted criminals from other states with the cooperation of federal and local authorities. The most dangerous area of the state continues to be the northern border with Zacatecas. Occasionally criminal groups will cross the state line into Aguascalientes to steal cars, commit kidnappings, or assault the authorities. 

There have been a number of home-invasion robberies in the GMZ and other major cities in the Consular district. In most cases, thieves gain access to the property by claiming to be municipal or maintenance employees. They often target domestic staff to gain entry, and in many cases, the domestic employees have been complicit in the crime. Thieves usually target moderately wealthy homes and often know the victim keeps large quantities of cash or other valuables in the house. In many cases, the residents are tied up during the robbery, and criminals often use the victim’s car to get away with stolen property. Cases of home-invasion robbery are less common in apartment buildings or in gated neighborhoods. 

Most sexual assaults on American citizens occur in tourist areas such as Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo. Often the perpetrators will target clearly-intoxicated tourists in bars and nightclubs. 

Non-violent and property crime is fairly consistent throughout the district, the most frequent crimes being robbery, auto-part theft, and telephonic extortion. Particularly in Guadalajara, thieves often operate in heavily congested areas to steal bags, purses, and jewelry. The thieves often use motorcycles or scooters to get away quickly after snatching a bag or necklace. Robberies that include the threat of force are less common but do occur, usually in the evening or night-time hours. 

Overall Road Safety Situation

A variety of road conditions exist throughout the Consular district. Toll highways (known as “cuota highways”) are often very near to U.S. interstate highway standards with several lanes for traffic and broad paved shoulders. The toll highways generally have fewer access points (on-ramps and off-ramps), better lighting, and a higher rate of police patrols. The toll highways are the safest way to transit over land in the district, and very few incidents of carjacking have been reported. 

Non-toll highways (known as “libre highways”) are often in much poorer condition than the toll highways. There are often no shoulders and only one narrow lane in each direction. There are fewer police, and incidents of carjacking and shootouts between rival criminal groups, particularly after dark, occur more frequently on non-toll highways. 

Road conditions in urban areas can also vary considerably. In upscale or tourist neighborhoods of major cities, the roads are well maintained, whereas in marginalized areas roads are often poorly maintained, with large potholes or no paving at all. There are large speed bumps installed around major cities, and even on some highways, that are often poorly marked. Drivers need to be alert at all times for changing road conditions. Regardless of the infrastructure quality, drivers routinely disobey even the most fundamental traffic laws. It is common for drivers to treat red traffic lights like stop signs; crossing as soon as they have checked for opposing traffic. Single left-hand turns are universally treated as double left turns, regardless of the number of lanes available. Law enforcement generally ignores these problems. 

During the rainy season (July-August), major thoroughfares, including tunnels and underpasses, will often become flooded and disrupt traffic seriously. Heavy rain also frequently causes traffic lights to stop working. Puerto Vallarta and other cities in the district experience similar problems. 

Mass transit is generally considered unsafe for travelers. There is very limited metro service in the city, but public buses are more common. Petty crime, such as pickpocketing and bag-snatching, is very common on mass transit. The most dangerous aspect of using the bus is the reckless driving that is endemic due to the commission-based pay structure for the drivers. In 2012, public buses killed 54 pedestrians in the GMZ. This public threat and local government’s lack response has led to a number of vigilante assaults and murders of bus drivers in 2012. When combined, these factors make mass transit a substantial risk to those who use it and to the public at large.  

Travelers using long distance buses should ensure the bus will use the toll highways when available. There were isolated cases in 2012 of entire buses being robbed by criminals posing as passengers. Generally, taking a charter bus is safe except in those areas where the U.S. Travel Warning advises against non-essential travel. U.S. government personnel often use charter buses between Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta.   

Taxi service in the major cities is generally reliable and safe. Most taxi drivers operate from a marked and registered taxi stand. To ensure a taxi is affiliated with a registered taxi stand, avoid hailing the taxi in the street. Instead call or walk to a taxi stand, which are located throughout the GMZ and other major cities in the district. Restaurant and hotel staff can also be relied upon to summon an affiliated taxi. Taxi service from the airports is also considered safe. Arriving passengers should look for a TAXI kiosk in the departure terminal of the airport and pay the fare at the kiosk before exiting the airport and boarding the taxi.

Cargo theft is a major concern for the U.S. private sector. Jalisco ranked fifth overall in reported incidents of cargo theft in 2012, with approximately 115 cases. Most of these cases occurred less than 50 kilometers outside the GMZ. The most commonly-targeted product is food and beverage items, including grains, juice, soda, and beer. The second most commonly-targeted product is building construction material, such as cement and raw metal. 

Auto-part theft is very prevalent throughout the district. Thieves usually target easy-to-remove parts, including spare tires and side mirrors, but can also target side molding, grills, and occasionally wheels and tires. These thefts usually occur after dark from cars parked along the street. 

Auto-theft throughout the district most often involves the threat of force (carjacking). Thieves target late-model trucks and SUVs, mostly after dark and in marginalized areas or along rural, non-toll highways. In cases where the victim does not resist, the thieves rarely do any harm beyond taking the vehicle. 

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence 

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

There are no major terrorism threats/concerns or religious or ethnic violence impacting the U.S. private sector in the Guadalajara Consular district. 

Civil Unrest

Non-violent demonstrations occur occasionally. Past demonstrations have targeted the U.S. Consulate and Mexican subsidiaries of U.S. businesses. In many cases, the demonstrations are organized by political parties, labor-rights groups, or indigenous-rights groups. These groups are most likely to demonstrate against U.S. private sector interests in response to business practices that are perceived to be unfair or corrupt. Demonstrations are sometimes coordinated across the country. While almost always non-violent, demonstrators have been known to block roads or obstruct access to businesses during a protest. Local law enforcement is reticent to take any active roll in dispersing demonstrators, even if they are on private property. On December 1, 2012, the police did attempt to disperse demonstrators outside the International Book Festival at the Guadalajara Expo Center. Scuffles between protestors and the police broke out almost immediately, resulting in minor injuries and property damage. 

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

The entire Consular district is prone to earthquakes, and several were strong enough to be felt in 2012, though there was no reported property damage. No major earthquake has occurred in decades. Guadalajara is surrounded by 10 volcanoes (1 active and 9 inactive). 

Pacific hurricanes are also a threat to coastal areas of the Consular district, including Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo. In October 2011, Hurricane Jova made landfall on the Jalisco coast as a Category 2 hurricane. Nine people were killed, and six people were injured. Throughout Jalisco, losses from Jova reached $96.1 million, and roughly 46,280 people were affected. In Colima, preliminary losses to the tourism industry were estimated at US$12.7 million. Infrastructural damage from the storm in Colima reached $94.87 million.

Regional Travel Concerns and Restricted Travel Areas/Zones

The U.S. Consulate continues to maintain the Travel Warnings put in place in 2011 that advise against non-essential travel to Tepic and areas north of Tepic in Nayarit. 

The U.S. Consulate advises increased caution for American citizen travelers throughout the state and advised against non-essential travel to areas bordering Michoacán, including the town of Tecoman, Colima.

The U.S. Consulate maintains a Travel Warning for areas that border Zacatecas. 

Drug-related Crimes

The most important post-specific concern is the presence of TCOs and TCO-related violent crime. This has been an important drug trafficking region for many decades. Nayarit, western Jalisco, and Colima are major marijuana cultivation zones. High elevation areas in Nayarit are also used to grow poppies for heroin production. In the last several years, the strategic importance of this region has increased further, as methamphetamine production has increased. Manzanillo, Colima is the largest commercial port in Mexico and a major gateway for precursor chemicals, largely from Asia. Methamphetamine laboratories have become prevalent between Manzanillo and Guadalajara. The presence of methamphetamine laboratories has made rural areas more dangerous for travelers. 

Realizing the strategic value of this territory, various TCOs have established, defended, and competed for territory, resulting in increased violence. TCO-related violence is most common in areas where one group’s territory abuts another. The two major cartels in Jalisco in 2011 were the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) and La Resistencia (aka the Milenio Cartel). These two cartels were competing factions that had split apart after the death of Ignacio Coronel Villarreal in July 2010. The competition between these two cartels led to much of the violence in Guadalajara in 2011 and the first half of 2012. With the backing of the Sinaloa Cartel, the CJNG achieved dominance over La Resistencia, and by the end of 2012, La Resistencia ceased to be a significant factor. Shortly thereafter, there were reports of a dispute between the Sinaloa Cartel and the CJNG. Along with losing their major patron, the CJNG suffered further set backs in 2012 when the Mexican military arresting high-ranking leaders, including Erick Valencia and Ramón and Rafael Álvarez Ayala. Perceiving a weakened CJNG, TCOs with nearby territory increased their operations in Jalisco. Specifically, the Beltran-Leyva cartel and the Zetas cartel in the north from Nayarit and Zacatecas respectively, and the Caballeros Templarios from Michoacán in the south attacked police and CJNG cells along the north and south. The northern and southern borders of Jalisco, and the adjacent Colima-Michoacán border, are the most likely places for major cartel violence to occur. 

Low-level drug violence contributes to the homicide rate in the GMZ but does not usually pose a substantial risk to U.S. private sector interests. TCO-related violence is more likely to impact the U.S. private sector when authorities attempt to capture high-value TCO targets, who often reside in upscale areas of Guadalajara. Such operations have not been overly common, but on three occasions in 2012, major violence erupted in the city when arrest operations were conducted. 

In addition to the risk posed to civilians by any resistance a target may offer, the cartels and particularly the CJNG, are known to establish “narco-blockades” during an arrest operation to strain police resources and inhibit emergency response around the city. During a blockade, cartel members often carjack large vehicles, including buses or tracker-trailers, then set them on fire and block roadways. Narco-blockades have been used in Puerto Vallarta, Colima City, and Manzanillo. 

Kidnapping Threats

Reported incidents of kidnapping have also gradually risen in Jalisco. In 2011, there were 47 reported kidnappings; in 2012, there were 64 reported cases. Part of this increase may be caused by increased frequency of reporting, as public confidence in state authorities to resolve kidnappings has increased. The Jalisco Attorney General’s office reported that they resolved 44 of the reported cases in 2012. Nevertheless, kidnapping remains an underreported crime, and the Consulate estimates that there could be as many as three to four actual cases for each reported case. 

Police Response

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

In some instances, U.S. citizens have become victims of harassment, mistreatment, and extortion by alleged law enforcement and other officials. Authorities have cooperated in investigating such cases, but one must have the officer's name, badge number, and patrol car number to pursue a complaint effectively. Please note this information if you have a problem with police or other official. In addition, travelers should be wary of persons representing themselves as police officers or other officials. When in doubt, ask for identification. 

Where to Turn to for Assistance if you Become a Victim of Crime

Reporting crimes can be a long, difficult experience. Uniformed police officers cannot take reports of crime, and all reports must be made to the local branch of the State Prosecutor’s Office (the office is called the Ministerio Publico and the report is called a denuncia). When making the report, the burden of proof is placed on the individual to substantiate that a crime occurred. Even when the report is filed properly, it is required to be ratified several days later. This becomes impossible for many visitors on short stays. Even in cases when a report is properly filed and ratified, police rarely investigate non-violent or minor property crimes. Police are more responsive in cases of active threats or violent crime. Major crimes, such as kidnapping, are investigated and often resolved. Crimes against foreigners are likely to get more attention from the authorities than crimes against Mexican citizens. Despite the substantial obstacles to reporting a crime, the U.S. Consulate encourages all U.S. citizen victims of crime to report the crime to the Ministerio Publico and to the American Citizen Services office of the Consulate. 

For contact and location information for the Ministerio Publico, please use the weblinks and phone number provided below:
Jalisco: http://www.jalisco.gob.mx/wps/portal/dependencias/pgj/!ut/p/c5/04_SB8K8xLLM9MSSzPy8xBz9CP0os3ifEB8PY68gIwP3YENzAyO3MDcXd0dn9yATI6B8JJK8v4mPMVDe38fRJcjVwCLAjIDucJB9-PWD5A1wAEcDfT-P_NxU_YLcCIMsE0dFANhJU-E!/dl3/d3/L2dBISEvZ0FBIS9nQSEh/   
Phone: 3837-6000 or toll free (in Mexico) 01-800-640-9298

Aguascalientes: http://www.aguascalientes.gob.mx/pgj/ 
Phone: 910-2800

Colima: http://serviciospgj.col.gob.mx/denuncia/servicios.php 
Phone: 314-2334

Nayarit: http://www.pgjnayarit.gob.mx/ 
Phone: 129-6000, 129-6010

Various Police/Security Agencies

Uniformed police are known as preventativos, and their purpose is to patrol and prevent crimes from occurring. In cases where businesses report specific concerns or threats, these uniformed forces are often deployed to protect the threatened interests. The Guadalajara Municipal Police even provide escorts to private citizens when they need to bring substantial amounts of cash to/from a bank. Unfortunately, due to Mexican law, these uniformed officers are not permitted to take any report of crime, and they do not perform any investigative functions. Municipal police forces throughout the district are limited to these preventative forces. 

The state police in all states of the Consular district maintain a uniformed police, who serve the protective and crime prevention functions described above. Each state also maintains a force of investigative police, overseen by the Attorney General. These investigative police are often divided into functional categories, with the most capable officers assigned to investigate homicides or kidnappings. In Nayarit and Aguascalientes, the state governments have begun implementation of a program called Mando Unico. This is a federally-mandated program that integrates the uniform police and investigative officers. It also integrates municipal police with state forces. Both states have seen positive results from implementing this program, and it was one of the major contributing factors to Nayarit’s ability to reduce their homicide rate from 2011 to 2012. 

In every state, there are also transit police who are charged with road safety and enforcing traffic laws. They are the only law enforcement who will stop a vehicle for a traffic violation, and this explains why drivers do not hesitate to break traffic laws even in the presence of other types of uniformed patrols. The transit police are generally professional and adequately equipped for their particular task. Both state and municipal governments may have transit police. 

In Puerto Vallarta, there are also tourism police who are specifically assigned to work in tourist areas. These are the only group of police who typically speak English. Their main purpose is to enhance the safety of tourist areas by deterring general crime and being available to respond to any type of accident. Tourist police are also not able to take reports of crime but can assist travelers in contacting the authorities who can. 

In many rural municipalities in Nayarit, Jalisco, and Colima, the municipal police are often understaffed and under-resourced, particularly given their task of opposing organized crime. In some rural areas, municipal police are supplemented by state or federal forces, but in this Consular district, there are not enough state or federal officers to reinforce every rural municipality, and at any given time several will be vulnerable and unable to prevent the incursion of criminal groups. Often this leaves municipal police forces the option of allowing criminal groups into their territory with complete impunity or engaging them in gun battles for which the police are unprepared. In at least two municipalities in southern Jalisco (Ayotlan and Tizapan el Alto), substantial portions of the police force resigned after violent clashes with criminals left multiple officers dead. In major cities, the municipal forces are much larger, and they are more capable of opposing criminal groups.      

Medical Emergencies

There are two medical systems; public and private. Mexican citizens receive free emergency and non-emergency medical care through the public system. Public emergency medical service can be contacted by dialing 066. In major cities, an ambulance response time is typically 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the location of the incident. In rural areas, public health facilities are often the only option, and the level of care they provide is often substantially lower than the level of care in major cities. 

Most visitors and relatively wealthy Mexicans choose to use private health care services. All major cities have private hospitals and private ambulance services. Most private hospitals and emergency services require payment or adequate guarantee of payment before services will be provided. 

Contact Information for Recommended Local Hospitals and Clinics

Private hospitals in Guadalajara include:
Hospital San Javier
Avenida Pablo Casals 640
Guadalajara, Jalisco
Telephone: 3669-0222 
Emergency:  3641-4832
http://www.sanjavier.com.mx/ 

Hospital Angeles del Carmen
Tarascos 3435
Guadalajara, Jalisco
Telephone:  or  or  3813-0042
Emergency:  3813-1224
http://www.hospitalangelesdelcarmen.com 

Hospital Puerta de Hierro
Puerta de Hierro 5150, Puerta de Hierro
45116 Zapopan, Jalisco
Telephone: 3848-4000
http://www.cmpdh.com  

Private Ambulance Services in Guadalajara include: 
Medical Mobil Ambulance
3827-2087
Emergency Response:
3854-7777

Airlink Ambulance
3629-8700 (located in Puerta de Hierro)
01 800 024-8600    
http://www.airlinkambulance.com

CDC Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has a dedicated page containing health information for travelers to Mexico here: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/mexico.htm 

Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Crimes/Scams

Telephonic extortion is an umbrella term for a variety of scams in which a caller uses a ruse to convince the victim to transfer money. In many cases, the caller will allege to be a member of a well-known TCO and claim to have kidnapped someone for ransom. In many cases, the caller will know when the supposedly kidnapped person is unavailable or will conduct some surveillance or reconnaissance to be able to relate details of the person’s dress or whereabouts. Other versions of this scam involve extorting someone in the United States. The caller may allege to be an Embassy employee and tell the recipient that a loved one has been in a car accident in Mexico and that they need to transfer money urgently to pay for medical care. The U.S. Consulate in Guadalajara issued a message to American citizens in 2012 advising them to be aware of these scams and to contact the Consulate if they receive any calls they suspect are telephonic extortion.

Areas to be Avoided and Best Security Practices

Any time you are in a public place, ensure you are cognizant of those around you. Maintaining a heightened situational awareness in crowds, keeping your belongings close, and not wearing expensive-looking jewelry are the best ways to reduce the risk of being robbed. Trust your senses and your instincts. If a situation does not feel right, walk away; find another café, ATM, or gas station. Going out in groups, avoiding excessive use of alcohol, and closely monitoring your drink are the most effective ways to reduce the chance of sexual assault. Never give out your personal information, such as family member and household staff names, addresses, and telephone numbers, in an open setting.

Schedules that are predictable leave you vulnerable. Be unpredictable when possible in both your work and social schedules. Try to take different routes between work, school, and home. Make sure you always tell a friend or family member where you are going – when you run errands, go for a jog, or any other outside activity. 

If you think you hear gunshots, seek cover. You could move around the corner of a building, into a restroom, or just drop to the floor beneath a table. If you are unsure what is happening, you should still react as you continue to assess the situation. Try not to panic, especially if you are driving. Try to identify the source of the threat and seek cover or create distance by driving the other direction. Look out for other motorists or pedestrians who may also be reacting. 

As you approach your vehicle on the street or in a parking lot, look around for anything or anyone suspicious; make it clear to anyone who is watching that you are paying attention. Drivers can reduce the risk of carjacking by limiting intercity travel to daylight hours, reducing travel in marginalized or rural areas after dark, and avoiding the use of high profile trucks or SUVs. Utilizing pay lots is the easiest way to reduce the risk of auto-part theft. In traffic, drive defensively and always attempt to leave space to maneuver. Always leave yourself an exit. Be prepared to take evasive action at any time. If you are being followed or harassed by another driver, try to find the nearest police station, hotel, or other public facility to call the police. Do not stop until you reach a safe location and never lead them back to your home. 

Keep your car doors locked when you are in the car. Keep windows rolled up while in traffic. 

Keep your home or apartment doors locked when you are at home. Ensuring domestic staff is properly vetted, being suspicious of anyone coming to your door, and never keeping large quantities of cash in the home are the most effective ways to reduce the risk of home-invasion robbery. Ensure all of your family members are briefed on security measures.

The most effective ways to reduce the risk of cargo theft are avoiding stops in high-risk areas, limiting travel to daylight hours, using satellite tracking equipment, and reducing the time/place predictability of routine shipments. 

The best ways to reduce the risk from TCO-related violence are to stay tuned to news reports and have an effective communication plan to order your personnel to shelter-in-place when wide-spread violence occurs.

U.S. Embassy/Consulate Location and Contact Information 

Embassy/Consulate Address and Hours of Operation 

The U.S. Consulate is located at Progreso 175, Colonia Americana, Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. 

Embassy/Consulate Contact Numbers

Consulate main numbers: (33) 3268-2100 or (33) 3268-2200
Consulate after hours: (33) 3268-2145
Consular officers are available for emergency assistance 24 hours/day, 7 days/week. 
American Citizen Services: (33) 3268-2173 or (33) 3268-2273
Regional Security Office:  52-33-3268-2208
Regional Security Office Duty Agent: (33) 3268-2300

The U.S. Embassy Mexico City can be reached by dialing 01-55-5080-2000 (in Mexico), or 011-52-55-5080-2000 (outside Mexico).

To contact the Department of State in the U.S. call 1-888-407-4747 during business hours, and 202-647-5225 after hours. 

All visitors should read the latest Mexico Travel Warning and Mexico Country Specific Information provided by the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs. These documents can be found at www.travel.state.gov. All U.S. Citizen travelers should also register with the nearest U.S. Consulate through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). Additional information on STEP can be found at www.travel.state.gov 

OSAC Country Council Information

The Guadalajara Country Council was founded in 2008 and has an active membership of approximately 50 U.S. private sector entities including businesses, faith-based organizations, and academia. The Council is led by an Executive Committee consisting of volunteers from among the private sector membership. There are two co-chairpersons, one of whom is always the Regional Security Officer of the U.S. Consulate in Guadalajara. The Council shares information on security-related topic and meets quarterly. For more information on the Guadalajara Country Council, contact the Consulate’s Regional Security Office at +52-33-3268-2208.