Overall Crime and Safety Situation
U.S. Consulate General Hermosillo 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 HERMOSILLO AS BEING A HIGH-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 U.S. Consulate General Hermosillo Consular District covers the southern 2/3 of the state of Sonora and the entire state of Sinaloa. Hermosillo, in the state of Sonora, is approximately 220 miles south of Tucson, Arizona. Sonora is a relatively prosperous state with strong cross-border economic and social ties. Hermosillo is the economic and political capital of Sonora and the state’s academic and research center, hosting a number of universities. Hermosillo is also the county seat (municipio) of the Municipio de Hermosillo. According to the 2010 census, the population of the city was 715,061.
Parts of Sonora and Sinaloa, including Mazatlan, Kino, Alamos and San Carlos, have well-established American expatriate populations. Many tourists stay for weeks or months at a time. Major cruise lines resumed ports of call to Mazatlan in November 2012. The peak tourist season is October-March.
Violent crime in Sinaloa, particularly the illegal drug trade, continues to occur at a much higher rate than in Sonora. Armed robbery, drug-related homicide, assault, burglary, vehicle theft, theft from vehicles, credit card fraud, and petty crime occur. While Mexico employs strict gun-control laws, thieves and robbers are usually armed with knives or handguns. There is no evidence to indicate that criminals are specifically targeting U.S. citizens or the U.S. private sector. Criminals often select victims based on an appearance of vulnerability, prosperity, or inattentiveness.
Sinaloa remains among the top states in Mexico for Transnational Criminal Organization (TCO) violence. Sinaloa witnessed an increase in violent crime in 2016. Criminal groups loyal to Beltran Leyva’s organization continue to control parts of northern Sinaloa, including an alliance with Los Zetas and the Carillo Fuentes group. Around Mazatlan, different groups (Beltran Leyva, Los Zetas, groups moving north from Nayarit) are in conflict with the Sinaloa cartel. The January 2016 capture of El Chapo in Los Mochis further destabilized the region and led to more violence.
Sonora is not spared from the criminal or narco-violence. In general, this violence is targeted at those involved in the illegal drug trade or at those opposing it. In recent years, Hermosillo experienced several narco-related acts of violence or other violent incidents related to organized crime. While those affected by this type of violence are in some way associated with illegal activity, there is the potential for innocent bystanders to be injured or killed.
Allegedly, approximately 2/3 of crimes in Mexico go unreported. Therefore, any reported national crimes statistics should be used for trend analyses and not as statistically representational.
Visitors to the Consular District should research the areas to be visited to ascertain the crime situation. Should you find yourself involved in an incident, do not escalate the situation. Be cooperative; holding onto your wallet, your purse, or even your vehicle is not worth your life. Vary your routes/times. Be alert to possible surveillance. Always be alert to your surroundings.
Cloning or counterfeiting debit/credit cards occurs routinely in Mexico. Travelers are encouraged to plan their cash needs in advance, using only reputable ATMs in secure areas. Card skimming and double-charging are common electronic fraud. Use credit cards only when you are able to maintain physical control of the card; never let it be taken away by an employee.
Other Areas of Concern
There are many areas to avoid within Hermosillo’s Consular District. The U.S. Department of State updates its travel policy and the Travel Warning periodically in response to the evolving security situation. Due to the high level of crime and drug-related violence in Sinaloa and parts of Sonora, any travel within these areas should be consulted against the Department’s warnings and advisories.
Driving in Mexico requires vigilance and a defensive approach. Local drivers are not uniformly well experienced and often have cars that are poorly maintained or in bad repair. Be alert for vehicles moving slower than the rest of the traffic flow and for vehicles speeding through traffic signals at the last minute. Minor steering mistakes that can normally be corrected on a road with wide and level shoulders often cause drivers to lose control of their vehicles. Additionally, be aware of vehicles with defective lights at night. Road signage and traffic lights are improving but are not always clear. Road damage is not always quickly repaired, leaving potholes that can damage your car or cause drivers to swerve into your lane or brake unexpectedly. Drivers should give a wide berth to public buses. U.S. citizens are commonly involved in serious traffic accidents on highways. Speed, nighttime travel, unfamiliarity with the road, and other factors contribute to this. Animals, slow moving trucks/buses, and inexperienced local drivers contribute to the number of vehicle accidents as well. For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.”
During the rainy summer, localized flash flooding may occur on many of the main and side streets in cities, leaving vehicles stalled out. The rains also create new potholes and, in Hermosillo, often cause at least one large sinkhole per year on a major thoroughfare. Drivers should avoid driving if possible during heavy rain storms.
Travelers should avoid nighttime travel and only use inter-city toll highways. Toll roads (cuotas) are indicated by the capital letter "D" printed below the highway route number on area maps. Plan your route ahead and purchase fuel at gas stations in cities you travel through. Carry enough local currency for tolls and emergency needs. There have been incidents of road-side robberies in Sinaloa and Sonora. These predominately occur after dark, especially in remote areas.
An additional concern while traveling Highway 15, in both states, is the prevalence of livestock on the highway. Livestock has been identified by the transport industry and public authorities as a significant problem especially at night. On several occasions, authorities of the Secretaria de Comunicaciones y Transportes (SCT) have built fences to control animals, but many have been dismantled by criminals who sell the scrap metals and materials for profit. In 2015, in Vicam (Sonora) a local indigenous group regularly blocked Highway 15 to protest local matters (water allocation, taxes, politics). For more than three years, this political protest has continued but has not led to violence. In 2016, one incident was reported of highway blockage.
U.S. car insurance is not valid in Mexico; travelers must obtain Mexican car insurance or risk being detained in case of an accident. Travelers outside the Sonora “hassle-free” zone (which includes Highway 15 and areas west as far south as Empalme, Sonora) must obtain a vehicle import permit or risk having their car seized by Mexican authorities. Fines to release the car are roughly equal to the car’s value.
The military has increased its presence in many regions as part of a nationwide effort to deal with the drug-related violence plaguing parts of the country. Military checkpoints are likely to be encountered more frequently when traveling by road. Police set up various administrative checkpoints in the cities (speed control, drunk driver checkpoints) and along the highways (vehicle registration checkpoints). These are in addition to regular checkpoints to control criminal activity.
It is common for people to approach your vehicle asking for directions or change, giving out flyers, washing windows, or selling goods. You should be suspicious of them and ensure your doors are locked and windows up far enough in case they are not well-intentioned. When stopped in traffic, leave enough distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you, so you can pull away quickly. Be alert when using drive-up ATMs, never pick up a hitchhiker, and do not stop to assist strangers whose vehicles appear to be broken down.
When parking, avoid leaving your vehicle 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. If your spare tire is mounted on the outside of the vehicle, secure it with a chain/padlock or similar device. Replace one lug nut on each wheel with a specially-keyed bolt that locks or can only be removed with a special attachment to the tire iron. Consider using a steering wheel locking device. The installation of a car alarm is strongly recommended to protect the contents of a vehicle from theft. Theft of a vehicle's operating computer and car sound system are also common crimes. If you purchase an aftermarket car radio, look for models that can be removed from the dash and locked in the trunk.
Public Transportation Conditions
Avoid using public buses. These are typically very crowded, and pickpocketing is common. If traveling via intercity bus, do not lose sight of your bags. It is common for thieves to wait at roadside gas stations and bus stations to steal luggage. Travel on intercity buses should only be done during daylight hours. Bus lines have been targeted by hijackers for road-side robberies.
Taxis in many cities are safer and more reliable. Travelers should only patronize taxis from designated taxi stands or called from an established taxi company. In Hermosillo, Uber has been found to be safe and reliable.
Airports in the major cities operate various domestic and international routes, provided by Mexican and international carriers. Several U.S.-operated carriers service Hermosillo, Mazatlan, and Culiacan, as well as others. Be prepared for U.S.-styled security screening and unpredictable wait times.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED HERMOSILLO 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 international terrorist groups active in Mexico, lax immigration controls, the ease with which fake Mexican travel documents can be obtained, and Mexico's geographic location make the country an attractive transit point for potential transnational terrorists. These vulnerabilities make cross-border transit of people/goods a key area of concern. Private sector businesses conducting cross-border trade should be aware of this vulnerability, as terrorist and criminal organizations could use legitimate business transport to smuggle people or items across borders. To mitigate this risk, U.S. Customs and Border Protection operate the C-TPAT (Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism) program in Mexico.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED HERMOSILLO AS BEING A HIGH-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
There have been numerous peaceful demonstrations within the Hermosillo Consular District. With the Consulate General building located between the University of Sonora, the Governor’s Palace, and other city/state administrative buildings, protestors use the surrounding area to stage their demonstrations, which have generally been peaceful and well-policed. None of the protests observed in 2016 were against the U.S. or U.S. policy.
Some communities have disputes and legal cases involving land, water, and other issues, but few have sparked violent episodes or the formation of groups responding with violence.
Hurricanes off the west coast make landfall in Sinaloa and Sonora during the hurricane season. U.S. citizens in affected regions have been forced to delay their return to the U.S. due to infrastructure damage to airports and limited flight availability. Travelers should be aware that they may not be able to depart the area immediately. Travelers should apprise family/friends in the U.S. of their whereabouts and keep in close contact with their tour operator, hotel staff, and local officials for evacuation instructions in the event of a weather emergency.
Driving during/after rainstorms should be avoided since improper drainage creates street flooding and large, submerged potholes. Heavy rains may leave sections of roads washed out completely. Minor tropical storms can develop into hurricanes very quickly, limiting the time available for a safe evacuation.
U.S. citizens living in or traveling to storm-prone regions should prepare for hurricanes and tropical storms by organizing supplies of bottled water, non-perishable food items, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, and vital documents (especially passport and identification) and medications in a waterproof container. Emergency shelters often have access only to basic resources and limited medical and food supplies. U.S. citizens should monitor local radio, the National Weather Service and Mexican weather authorities (in Spanish).
Although uncommon, the possibility of earthquakes does exist.
- In October 19, 2013, the state of Sonora Emergency Response Center (C4) reported a 6.3 magnitude earthquake. The epicenter was 82 kilometers southwest of Huatabampo.
Many areas of Sonora and Sinaloa also experience very high temperatures.
Critical Infrastructure Concerns
Highway 15 tollway (cuota) in Sonora is often under construction and has limited/no shoulders; drivers should heed caution.
Electrical service can be unreliable in areas of Mexico.
Mexico is well-known for its illegal drug trade and the violence/corruption that the industry fosters. Mexico is the primary route for transporting illegal drugs into the U.S. Sonora and Sinaloa are coveted trans-shipment routes for drugs heading north and money/weapons heading south. Drug-related violence in Mexico is mostly confined to those involved in the drug trade or those fighting it. There have been numerous press reports of police and military personnel being executed. Along Mexico's northern border cities, the violence is far greater and has injured/killed innocent bystanders.
Many publications exclude information regarding organized crime activity from their journalistic coverage, as criminal groups have attacked news outlets, kidnapped, and killed journalists in an effort to intimidate the press.
Kidnapping-for-ransom is an established criminal activity in Mexico. Most incidents go unreported. In many cases, the ransom is paid, and victim is set free. The usual practice is not to notify police authorities, as the popular belief is that the police may be involved in the crime or are unable to resolve the situation. Affluent residents often have bodyguards and armored vehicles for their families.
Express kidnappings are a common type of abduction in Mexico and are based on the 24-hour withdrawal limit placed on ATM cards industry-wide. The victim is generally held for 24-48 hours and is forced to withdraw funds from ATMs.
There have been reports of kidnappings (for ransom and express) in Sonora and Sinaloa. The state police forces in Sonora and Sinaloa have special anti-kidnapping units that have had some success in locating victims and arresting kidnappers.
Virtual kidnapping is another form of criminal activity that is commonplace in Mexico and is a form of telephonic extortion. The purported kidnapper calls the victim and claims to have kidnapped a loved one who will be held or harmed unless a payment is made. However, the caller uses this as a ruse to engage the victim in an extended dialogue through which the caller elicits information to use against the victim. The best advice is to remain calm in situations like this, do not volunteer information, and make independent efforts to reach the alleged victim. In one case, a mother stayed on the phone with the caller but was able to communicate to a co-worker to call her daughter to confirm her whereabouts. As it turned out, the daughter was out shopping. There have been many reports from across Mexico of virtual kidnapping calls being made to family members in the U.S. claiming that a loved one traveling in Mexico had been kidnapped. The best defense is to communicate travel plans to family/co-workers, provide detailed contact information and have multiple means of communication.
The primary challenge facing police forces in Mexico is the crisis of public confidence. This negative impression stems from deep-rooted problems of corruption, lack of professionalism, and lack of capacity. Mexican security forces and police generally have been ineffective in maintaining security in border areas and other parts of Mexico. Consequently, citizens are often indifferent to police authority, and the general perception is that crime victims do not report crimes due to fear of reprisals by the police, the belief that the police are corrupt, or the feeling that nothing would come from filing reports. Most crimes go unreported. Many police have been corrupted and are working as enforcers, informants, and facilitators. Police and security forces have also been targeted by criminal groups and many times are outmanned and outgunned by criminals.
Bringing any firearm/ammunition into Mexico is a punishable offense unless you obtain proper permits. Small weapons (pocket knives) can result in concealed weapons charges if you are caught. Contact a Mexican Consulate in the U.S. for information regarding bringing hunting weapons into the country.
U.S. citizens are advised to cooperate with the police if stopped or questioned. If you are stopped by police authorities and do not believe that you have done anything wrong, it may be preferable to give the police officer the photocopies of your identification rather than your actual documents. Have the following copies (rather than originals) available for officials: U.S. passport bio page, Mexican Visa/Tourist Permit/Resident Permit, U.S. Driver's License, Vehicle Registration (Tarjeta de Circulacion), Proof of Insurance, and Temporary or Free Entry Permit for Vehicle.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment
U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged not to offer tips or bribes to police officers after a traffic stop. In the event that the officer should suggest anything other than a normal solution to a traffic violation, note their badge number, name tag/vehicle number, and provide it to the American Citizen Services section of the U.S. Consulate General Hermosillo as soon as possible.
Crime Victim Assistance
911 is the emergency number in Sonora and Sinaloa (066 may work but will soon terminate) for police, fire, and emergency medical response. Operators may not speak English, and a Spanish speaker should be enlisted to assist. In Hermosillo and Mazatlan, emergency response centers have made efforts to staff emergency phone lines with English-speaking operators, but this should not be expected. 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 may be charged.
Police forces operate at the federal, state, and municipal levels. Police authority is divided into two primary functional areas: protective/preventative policing and investigative policing. The organization of police is based on two parallel systems, making it distinctly different from police authority in the U.S. At the federal and state levels, police forces are divided into Judicial Police forces (whose primary duty is to perform investigations on behalf of the federal or state prosecutor’s office) and Preventative Police forces (whose primary task is to patrol and prevent acts of crime through their deterrent presence). In practice, Preventative Police will respond to acts of crime in commission and can arrest suspects in the act of committing a crime. However, for crimes after the fact, the Judicial Police have sole authority to investigate and arrest subjects, involving the Preventative Police only as needed. Locally, the municipal police operate regionally, providing services to municipalities. A municipality may consist of many smaller cities and towns, equivalent to a county in the U.S. Police chiefs are appointed, and municipal police forces are only allowed to have preventative police forces. Thus, all investigative duties fall to either state or federal judicial police depending on the law(s) involved.
Additionally, other security forces consist of the Army (SEDENA, Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional) and the Navy/Marines (SEMAR, Secretaría de Marina). Forces from SEDENA and SEMAR are sometimes used to combat drug operations. SEDENA operates checkpoints along key highway routes.
Elective surgery facilities may lack access to sufficient emergency support.
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, "Your Health Abroad."
Contact Information for Recommended Hospitals/Clinics
Please review the Consulate General’s List of Doctors for Sonora and for Sinaloa.
Recommended Air Ambulance Services
For international treatment and medical insurance: International SOS.
Recommended Insurance Posture
Medical evacuation information can be found on the website for the American Citizen Services section of the U.S. Consulate General.
U.S. citizens are urged to obtain travel insurance to cover unexpected expenses during an emergency. Health insurance is an important consideration. Travelers should ensure that they have adequate health insurance while in Mexico. Medicaid and Medicare almost never cover services performed outside the U.S.
Very few hospitals in Mexico, and none in the Hermosillo Consular District, accept U.S. medical insurance. Instead, travelers will need to pay the hospital and then seek reimbursement for their insurance provider. Travelers should expect to pay upon leaving the hospital. In some instances, hospitals have refused to discharge patients until payment has been made.
Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
Travelers should take normal tourist precautions with regards to drinking water and when eating fresh fruits, vegetables, and locally prepared foods. For more information, please refer to OSAC’s Report, “I’m Drinking What in My Water?.”
Some travelers have adverse reactions to pollution and the dusty environment in Hermosillo and other parts of Sonora. People with asthma might want to take extra precautions. It is important to check weather trends for expected atmospheric conditions.
The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Mexico.
OSAC Country Council Information
There is currently no active Country Council in Hermosillo. Please contact OSAC’s Western Hemisphere team if you are interested in private-sector engagement in Hermosillo or have questions about OSAC’s Country Council programs.
U.S. Consulate Location and Contact Information
Consulate Address and Hours of Operation
U.S. Consulate General Hermosillo
Calle Monterrey 141 Poniente, Col Esqueda
CP 83000 Hermosillo, Sonora, México
Hours of Operation: 0800-1630 M-F
Consulate Contact Numbers
Telephone: (from the U.S., dial 011-52 first) 662-289-3500
After hours emergency Duty Officer cellular phone: 044 662-256-0741
044 should be replaced by 045 if dialing from outside your local area on a Mexican cellular phone, if calling from the U.S., dial 011 52 1 662-256-0741
U.S. Consular Agency in Mazatlan
Playa Gravitas 202, Local 10. Zona Dorada, Mazatlan, Sinaloa
(daytime phone number) 669-916-5889
(Evening cell phone number) 669-916-7531
Embassy Mexico City: https://mx.usembassy.gov/
Consulate Ciudad Juarez: https://mx.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/ciudad-juarez/
Consulate Guadalajara: https://mx.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/guadalajara/
Consulate Matamoros: https://mx.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/matamoros/
Consulate Mérida: https://mx.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/merida/
Consulate Monterrey: https://mx.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/monterrey/
Consulate Nogales: https://mx.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/nogales/
Consulate Nuevo Laredo: https://mx.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/nuevo-laredo/
Consulate Tijuana: https://mx.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/tijuana/
U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). Registration will make your presence and whereabouts known.
Mexico Country Information Sheet