Overall Crime and Safety Situation
U.S. Consulate General Tijuana does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED TIJUANA AS BEING A CRITICAL-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Please review OSAC’s Mexico-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.
The Department of State divides its roles and responsibilities in Mexico among 10 consular districts spread across Mexico. The Consular District for the U.S. Consulate General in Tijuana comprises the states of Baja California and Baja California Sur. For information regarding the security environment in other areas of Mexico, please reference the OSAC Crime and Safety Reports from the following Consular Districts: Ciudad Juarez, Nogales, Hermosillo, Mexican Federal District, Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros, Monterrey, Guadalajara, and Merida.
The majority of U.S. corporations in Baja California can be found in Tijuana and Mexicali, with the bulk of the remaining U.S. commercial and tourist interests found in/around Ensenada and Rosarito. Tijuana is the largest city in Baja California and is connected to greater San Diego, California, by the San Ysidro Port of Entry – the busiest land border crossing in the world.
Tijuana is a very large metropolitan city with an ever-present, very real crime problem. Pickpockets and purse snatchers are present and mostly target large crowds on public transportation and at tourist attractions. Criminals normally operate in pairs or small groups, and they generally carry a knife or handgun. These criminals select victims based on an appearance of vulnerability, prosperity, or inattentiveness. Within the Consulate community, Mexican employees fall victim to crime far more frequently than their American colleagues. However, U.S. Consulate staff members are not immune to the effects of local violence, as crimes have occurred within close proximity to Consulate residences.
Tijuana is an important and lucrative location for Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs), narco-traffickers, and human smuggling organizations, given its proximity to a major U.S. city with a massive border crossing. Mexico is the primary route for the transport of illegal drugs into the U.S, and Tijuana is the gateway to southern California. As a result of its highly strategic location, violent crime continues to be a part of everyday life. Organized crime occurs on a near-daily basis by TCOs. Drug-related violence in U.S. Consulate General Tijuana’s consular district, for the most part, is confined to those involved in the drug trade. While U.S. citizens not involved in criminal activities are generally not targeted, innocent bystanders are at risk from the violence in the streets of border cities and nearby towns.
From an organized crime perspective, control over Baja California remains contested between three rival cartels: the Sinaloa Cartel, the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG), and remnants of the Arellano Felix Organization (AFO). In-fighting within the TCOs is also common and leads to additional insecurity. Criminal deportees from the U.S. to Tijuana continue to be a problem since, due to a lack of other options, they often work with local criminal organizations. As law enforcement agencies on both sides of the border succeed in arresting high level members of TCOs, unrest and power plays among the lower ranks tend to ensue.
Unlike 2007-2010 when there was a blatant “narco war” between the incumbent AFO (aka Tijuana Cartel) and the Sinaloa Cartel, crime now involves smaller cells within the Sinaloa Cartel and independent operators. However, targeted violent actions between the two most active cartels, Sinaloa Cartel and CJNG, continues to become more prevalent. In 2016, there was a noticeable increase in public announcements (normally done by placing banners in public places near/on murdered bodies) by self-proclaimed members of rival cartels (AFO and CJNG) against the Sinaloa cartel, and conversely, boasts from the Sinaloa Cartel of their continued dominance over the “plaza.” In 2016, mention of the possible allegiance between CJNG and AFO and references to their union as the formation of “new” cartel named the Cartel de Tijuana Nueva Generacion (CTNG) was more frequent.
Homicides continue to be mostly connected to these rivalries and power struggles, but the continued increase in public displays of violence in 2016 and the frequency of homicides are the main cause for continued concern. Per official government of Mexico statistics, the five municipalities in Baja California – Tijuana, Mexicali, Ensenada, Rosarito, Tecate – all had increases in homicides in 2016. Baja California as a whole experienced a 39% increase in the number of murder victims in 2016, as compared to 2015. This increase of violence continues to garner media attention, and many worry about its possible impact on the general populace.
All five municipalities experienced slight declines in reported assaults but increases in the amount of robberies compared to 2015.
In Baja California Sur, the majority of U.S. interests are concentrated in Los Cabos and La Paz. The current U.S. Department of State Travel Warning for all of Mexico continues to ask travelers to exercise caution in Baja California Sur’s state capital of La Paz, since the state continues to experience a high rate of homicides, many of which have occurred in La Paz. In that city, and to a lesser extent in other cities in Baja California Sur, there have been ongoing public acts of violence between rival criminal organizations. Recently published statistics from the Department of Interior of Mexico show 2016 homicide rates for the state are higher than any previously published rates, further supporting the warning to exercise caution. Baja California Sur experienced a 29% increase in the number of murder victims in 2016.
Cybercrime is a concern. Precautions should be taken to protect sensitive computer-based programs and operations. It is not uncommon for private corporations or government agencies to fall victim to hackers or other cyber-related attacks regardless of their location worldwide.
Credit and debit card fraud does occur.
Other Areas of Concern
Organized crime elements are present in local bars, nightclubs, and the casinos in Tijuana. Due to the presence of criminal activity there, people should use extreme caution after dark in the northern portion old Zona Centro in/around the “red light” district. For approximately eight blocks, Avenida Revolucion is lined with shops, bars, and restaurants, many aimed at day-trip tourists. Visitors should be careful (or aware) of walking too far north on Constitucion Avenue, one block west of Revolucion, and going below Juarez (Segunda), as it will abruptly lead you into the “red light” district.
Visitors should exercise caution when visiting Playas de Tijuana after dark, as there is an increased criminal element.
Visitors are highly encouraged to avoid traveling after dark on remote roads, isolated highways, or throughways that are not frequently patrolled by police.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Travelers should exercise caution, avoid traveling at night, and should use toll (cuota) roads rather than the less secure “free” (libre) roads whenever possible. In light of recent fuel shortages due to protest activities in Baja California, be reminded to maintain at least half of tank of fuel and to top off the tank whenever possible during extended road trips.
For information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.”
Public Transportation Conditions
You are more vulnerable to petty crime in crowded and confined places with unknown individuals, which applies to use of shared public transportation. Use of established cab companies that, as a practice, do not pick-up additional passengers, or the use of private transportation services like Uber (where available and permitted) is encouraged.
Tijuana’s airport is relatively modern and is located within a 10-minute drive from the Otay Mesa Border Crossing. The use of established cab services (from a kiosk) is recommended. The Cross Border Xpress (CBX) addition to the airport in December 2015 has been well received by travelers. The CBX is an enclosed pedestrian bridge for Tijuana Airport (TIJ) passengers crossing the U.S./Mexico border. Spanning 390 feet, the CBX skywalk is the first ever to connect a facility in the U.S. directly into a foreign airport terminal. CBX serves approximately 2.4 million passengers who already cross the border as part of their travels, helping them avoid unpredictable, often long delays at congested San Ysidro and Otay Mesa land ports of entry. Users of the bridge will be able to access the more than 30 destinations within Mexico that TIJ offers, many of which are not served by other southern California airports.
Other Travel Conditions
U.S. citizens should not hitchhike with, accept rides from, or offer rides to strangers. Tourists should not hike alone in backcountry areas, nor walk alone on lightly-frequented beaches, ruins, or trails.
U.S. citizens should be mindful of entry requirements and permits when traveling into Mexico, to included entry by waters via private boat. The U.S. Consulate advises that all individuals onboard vessels used for sport fishing, including passengers on commercial and charter boats, understand the entry requirements and permits needed before traveling.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED TIJUANA AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
While there do not appear to be any terrorist groups active in Baja California, lax immigration controls, the ease in which fake Mexican travel documents can be obtained, and Mexico's geographic location make the country a potentially attractive transit point for transnational terrorists.
Generally, northern Mexico is rather well-integrated with the U.S. by family and commercial ties. Anti-American sentiment is seldom expressed toward U.S. citizens, either official or non-official. American interests are generally not targets of political violence. Small, peaceful demonstrations in protest of various U.S. policies occur rarely at the U.S. Consulate General.
- Throughout January 2017, Tijuana, Mexicali, Rosarito, Ensenada, and Tecate witnessed multiple well-attended protests. Although the majority of these protests revolved around Mexico domestic issues and rising gas prices, there were reports of a few protestors also expressing some anti-American sentiment. No violence or threats were directed specifically to Americans or U.S. interests.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED TIJUANA AS BEING A HIGH-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Public protests and demonstrations do occur for various economic and political reasons, but they are typically peaceful. The government of Mexico’s ongoing conflict with TCOs is the main cause for civil unrest in the consular district. The January 2017 protest activity in Baja California has disrupted access to fuel, caused border closures, and resulted in significant traffic delays for vehicles wanting to enter Mexico. Because of the ever-present risk of a peaceful protest turning violent, travelers are always encouraged to avoid protest activity.
There were no major earthquakes in Baja California or Baja California Sur in 2016. Due to Tijuana’s proximity to the San Andreas Fault Line, the possibility of a large earthquake remains high.
In 2014, Baja California Sur was struck by Hurricane Odile, the most intense land-falling tropical hurricane to hit the peninsula during the satellite era. Odile, a Category 3 hurricane, roared into Baja California Sur on September 14 with winds up to 125 mph and six hours of torrential rain, leaving 92% of the population without electricity or water. An estimated 10,000 U.S. citizens were evacuated from the impacted areas. In 2015 and 2016, hurricane activity was comparatively less destructive; however, travelers are encouraged to stay current with weather conditions when traveling throughout the peninsula, especially in Baja California Sur during May-November, and plan accordingly. This includes monitoring the risk of heavy rainfall and its potential for causing flooding in urban and rural areas.
Weather events can severely impact critical infrastructure in both Baja California and Baja California Sur. Depending on the severity of the weather event, access to electricity, potable water, and operable roads may be impacted. Although Tijuana and other cities in the consular district are relatively modern, many buildings are not built to Western seismic standards.
There are privacy laws in Mexico that govern the release of personal information.
Kidnapping, including the kidnapping of non-Mexicans, occurs. Kidnapping-for-ransom is an established criminal activity. Unofficial estimates of kidnapping levels vary wildly, from 600-5,000 per year countrywide. In most cases, the ransom is paid, and the victim is set free. The usual practice is not to notify law enforcement, as it is commonly believed that the police may be involved or are unable to resolve the situation. Affluent residents in Tijuana often have bodyguards and armored vehicles for their families to protect against kidnapping.
Another kidnapping tactic is the telephonic kidnapping (virtual kidnapping). Prison inmates using smuggled cellular phones often place these calls. The methodology is the same as in other parts of Mexico. It is increasingly common for extortionists to call prospective victims, frequently posing as law enforcement or other officials, and demand payments in return for the release of an arrested family member or supposedly to forestall a kidnapping. Persons receiving such calls should be wary, as many such demands/threats are baseless, and should attempt to contact the family member as soon as possible. If you cannot reach the missing individual, and believe s/he may have run afoul of criminals or of the law, you may contact the Consulate, the Embassy, or the Department of State for assistance.
The ability of police varies, but there have been strides made in recent years, especially in Tijuana. Police response and confidence generally continues to improve in Tijuana, although corruption still exists. The Tijuana police continue to demonstrate a desire to gain the trust of the populace and continue to pursue outreach activities. The general perception was that the majority of crime victims do not report crimes due to fear of reprisals by the police, the belief that police are corrupt, or the feeling that nothing would come from such reports. This is slowly changing. Reporting crime is an archaic, exhausting process and is widely believed to be a waste of time, except for the most serious crimes or where a police report is required for insurance purposes. To file a complaint, it is helpful, but not absolutely necessary, to have the officer’s name, badge number, and patrol car number. If you are not able to obtain those, it may still be possible to identify the officer based on physical appearance and the time/place that the event occurred.
You can minimize your vulnerability by obeying Mexican law. You can be arrested for: disturbing the peace or being a public nuisance; drinking in public; fighting; nudity or immoral conduct; use, production, or sale of false documents; possession, introduction, or use of any weapon (including pocket knives); possession, introduction, or consumption of restricted drugs including medical marijuana (most drugs that are restricted in the U.S. are also restricted in Mexico); drunk driving or driving under the influence of drugs; and causing an auto accident or injuring someone.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment
U.S. citizens are advised to cooperate with the police if stopped or questioned. If you are stopped by a police officer, they cannot accept cash payments for fines, and offering a bribe to an officer is a serious crime. In addition, tourists should be wary of persons representing themselves as police officers or other officials. When in doubt, ask for identification.
The U.S. Consulate General will sometimes receive reports of extortion by supposed police officers in Baja California and Baja California Sur. Sometimes, the perpetrators are actual police officers, and sometimes they are criminals using fake police uniforms and credentials. If you are the victim of police extortion, please contact the U.S. Consulate. If you file a complaint, Consulate staff will assist you.
Crime Victim Assistance
The national emergency telephone number is 911. Callers can report criminal activity from anywhere in Mexico or the U.S.
Interested parties can call 1-866-201-5060 24/7/365 to report any crime-related information to bilingual operators who will forward the report to the proper authorities for action. This hotline was set up by the Baja California Secretary of Public Safety so that anyone wishing to report criminal activity in Mexico can do so anonymously from anywhere in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. A similar tip line “089” has been available since 2005 in Mexico to make an anonymous tip and enjoys a sizable call volume.
U.S. Consulate General Tijuana’s American Citizen Services provides assistance to American citizen’s in the consular district. The Consulate’s business hours are 7:30am to 4:00pm Monday through Friday. In case of an after-hours emergency involving U.S. citizens, please contact the Duty Officer. From Mexico dial 001 (619) 692-2154, from the U.S., call (619) 692-2154. This number is for emergencies only. Travelers may contact the Consular Section at the U.S. Consulate General Tijuana for assistance in dealing with the local police. If involved in a traffic accident or victimized by crime, one may be required to accompany the investigating officer to the local police station to file a complaint or respond to questions. Should a police report be required for an insurance claim, a nominal fee will be charged.
The Tijuana Municipal Police Department is the largest police force in the state of Baja California. They serve a preventive police role, patrolling and handling immediate response to criminal incidents within their jurisdiction. The Baja California State Preventive Police (PEP) serves a similar role for the entire state. Similarly, the Federal Police (PF), and to an extent the Mexican Army (SEDENA) and Mexican Marines (SEMAR), patrol more broadly, including public highways, airports, and the border regions.
In Baja California Sur, PF, SEDENA, and SEMAR share their security roles and responsibilities with state and smaller local municipal police forces.
In both states, the Attorney General’s Office at the federal level (PGR) and state level (PGJE) are responsible for the investigation and prosecution of crimes that fall under the jurisdiction of federal and state courts respectively.
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of States Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, "Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad," available on the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page.
Emergency Services 911
Red Cross (Cruz Roja) Ambulance 608-6700
Contact Information for Recommended Hospitals/Clinics
Contact information for some medical facilities in Tijuana are listed below (this listing is not all inclusive). You may receive additional information by contacting the local medical association (or its equivalent local licensing authority).
In Tijuana (Mexico: 01-664 + number, U.S.A.: 011-52-664 + number)
Hospital Direct: 635-1900/635-1800
Address: 10999 Paseo de los Heroes
DIRECTOR - EBERRI, PAULO, Work: 635-1800
Del Carmen Hospital
Hospital Direct: 681-7279
Address: Manuel Doblado #402, Colonia Gabilondo 22044
De la Mujer y el Niño Hospital
Hospital Direct: 215-9149/6464/ 634-2675/634-2878
Address: Diego Rivera #2312, Zona Rio
Del Prado Hospital/Centro Medico
Hospital Direct: 681-4900/681-4906
Address: 50 Calle Bugambilias, Tijuana
DIRECTOR - AUBANEL, MA. EUGENIA, Work: 681-4900
De Salud Mental Hospital
Hospital Direct: 607-9090
Address: Blvd. Internacional #20501 Cd. Industrial Mesa de Otay
Excel Hospital/Centro Medico
Address: Centro Medico Excel
Avenida Paseo de los Heroes # 2507 Zona Rio
Florence Hospital/Centro Medico
Hospital Direct: 684-8112/684-8043
Address: General Fereira #2224 Col. Cacho
Hospital Direct: 684-0078/79/80
Address: Avenida Centenario #19852, Zona Rio
Hospital Direct: 685-8960
Address: Calle Segunda #1413, Zona Centro
Hospital Direct: 630-4530
Address: Mulege #1648 Colonia Herrera
Infantil de las Californias Hospital
Hospital Direct: 624-4955/ 973-7756
Address: Av. Alejandro Von Humboldt #11431 Garita de Otay
These three local hospitals also have outpatient clinics:
Avenida Paseo de los Heroes 10999, Zona Rio
Centro Medico Excel
Avenida Paseo de los Heroes 2507, Zona Rio
Centro Medico Hospital Del Prado
Bugambilias 50, Fracc. Del Prado
In Rosarito (México: 01-661 + number, U.S.A.: 011-52-661 + number)
Hospital Direct: 612-3455
Address: Rene Ortiz Campoy 100, Zona Centro 22710
Hospital Direct: 612-6042/0412
Address: Del Olivo 100, Zona Centro 22710
ENSENADA (México: 01-646 + number, U.S.A.: 011-52-646 + number)
Hospital Direct: 174-4585/175-9090
Address: Av. José de Jesús Clark y Calle Belgrados #628 Col. Ampliación Moderna, Ensenada
Del Carmen Hospital/Sanatorio
Hospital Direct: 178-3477
Address: Calle Once 1105, Col. Ensenada, Ensenada
Hospital Direct: 176-7601/ 7700/ 7801
Address: Avenida Reforma & Fracc. Bahia, Ensenada
Transmedic Ambulance Service
Hospital Direct: 178-1400
Hospital Direct: 173-4500
Address: Arenas 151, Fracc. Playa Ensenada 22880, Ensenada
In Mexicali (México: 01-686 + number, U.S.A.: 011-52-686 + number)
Hospital Direct: 552-9275
Address: Salina Cruz y Durango, Col. Pueblo Nuevo 21120
Hispano Americano Hospital
Hospital Direct: 552-2300
Address: Avenida Reforma 1000, Colonia Nueva 21100
In Tecate (México: 01-665 + number, U.S.A.: 011-52-665 + number)
Hospital Direct: 654-1313
Address: Lazaro Cardenas 1800, Col. Romero 21410
Santa Catalina Hospital/Clinica
Hospital Direct: 654-5555
Address: Avenida Hidalgo 172, Col. Centro 21400
In San Felipe (México: 01-686 + number, U.S.A.: 011-52-686 + number)
Hospital Direct: 577-1544
Address: Avenida Puerto Peñasco y Mar Bermejo S/N
BAJA CALIFORNIA SUR
In Santa Rosalia (México: 01-615 + number, U.S.A.:011-52-615+number)
SSA Santa Rosalia Hospital Rural
Hospital Direct: 152-0789
Address: Jean-Michel Cousteau, Col. Mesa Francia
In San Jose del Cabo (México: 01-624 + number, U.S.A.: 011-52-624 + number)
Hospital Direct: 142-0316
Address: Blvd. Mijares y Valerio Canseco, Col. Centro 23400
Hospital Direct: 142-3813
Address: Calle Pescadores S/N, Col. El Chamizal 23400
Hospital Direct: 104-9300
Address: Carretera Transpeninsular Km. 24.5, Fraccion C-1
San Jose Clinica
Hospital Direct: 142-0260
Address: Calle Barco S/N Col. El Chamizal
In Cabo San Lucas (México: 01-624 + number, U.S.A.: 011-52-624 + number)
Hospital Direct: 143-3300
Address: Carretera a Todos Santos Km 121, Col. Ejidal 23430
Hospital Direct: 146-4375
Address: Ave. Los Pinos S/N, Col. Los Arcos
Sanatorio del Sagrado Corazon de Jesus Anikan
Hospital Direct: 143-0236
Address: Francisco Villa y Avenida de la Juventud S/N
Hospital Direct: 104-3910
Address: Transpeninsular Km 6.3, Col. Cabo Bello, Plaza del Rey
In La Paz (México: 01-612 + number, U.S.A.: 011-52-612 + number)
Hospital Direct: 122-1222
Address: Avenida los Deportistas S/N, Col. Libertad
General Hospital “Juan Maria de Salvatierra”
Hospital Direct: 175-0500
Address: Nicolas Bravo 1010, Col. Centro 23000
SSA Psiquiatrico de BCS Hospital
Hospital Direct: 124-6212
Address: Carretera Al Norte Km. 11, Col. El Centenario 23090
Available Air Ambulance Services
These ambulance services offer full service to all of Baja California.
Gillespie Field, 681 Kenney Street, El Cajon, CA 92020
Toll Free from USA: 1-800-462-0911
Call Collect: 619/284-7910
Ensenada, BC, Mexico
Tel: 1-800-026-3342 or 646/178-1400
Recommended Insurance Posture
For international treatment and medical insurance: International SOS, LA Office, 310-893-5280.
CDC Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
CDC International Traveler's hotline - 24 hour info available at 888-232-6348 or 800-232-4636.
The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Mexico.
OSAC Country Council Information
The Tijuana Country Council currently meets quarterly during the year between Tijuana, southern California, and Baja California Sur, and has approximately 75 members. Please contact OSAC’s Western Hemisphere team with any questions or to join.
U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information
Consulate Address and Hours of Operation
U.S. Consulate Tijuana Address:
Paseo de las Culturas s/n Mesa de Otay Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico 22425
Hours of Operation: 0730 - 1615 Mon-Fri
Consulate Contact Numbers
Mexico country code: 52
Tijuana area code: 664
Consulate switchboard: 664-977-2000 (from the U.S., dial 011-52-664-977-2000)
After hours emergency Duty Officer cellular phone: 619-692-2154 (US), 664-628-1762 (Mex)
Regional Security Office: ext. 2102, or 2271
Embassy Mexico City: http://mexico.usembassy.gov/
Consulate Ciudad Juarez: http://ciudadjuarez.usconsulate.gov/
Consulate Guadalajara: http://guadalajara.usconsulate.gov/
Consulate Hermosillo: http://hermosillo.usconsulate.gov/
Consulate Matamoros: http://matamoros.usconsulate.gov/
Consulate Merida: http://merida.usconsulate.gov/
Consulate Monterrey: http://monterrey.usconsulate.gov/
Consulate Nogales: http://nogales.usconsulate.gov/
Consulate Nuevo Laredo: http://nuevolaredo.usconsulate.gov/
For additional information, travelers should refer to the Department of State’s Country Specific Information for Mexico, the latest Travel Warning for Mexico, and the publication Help for American Victims of Crime Overseas.
If you are going to reside in or visit Mexico, please take the time to tell our Embassy about your presence in-country. If you enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. It will also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency.
Mexico Country Information Sheet