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Mexico 2014 Crime and Safety Report: Ciudad Juarez

Western Hemisphere > Mexico > Ciudad Juarez

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

The Consular district for the U.S. Consulate General in Ciudad Juarez is the entire state of Chihuahua.  A majority of U.S. businesses can be found in two cities: Ciudad Juarez and the state capital, Chihuahua City. Violence remains high in Juarez and Chihuahua City. There are no particular sections of the city to avoid as violence can occur anywhere, anytime. There is no indication that Americans are being specifically targeted. While homicides have decreased, the level of crime remains “critical”.  Americans who travel to Juarez and Chihuahua City need to guard against robbery, carjacking, theft, and burglary.

 

The Department of State assesses crime as “critical” in Ciudad Juarez. 530 persons were murdered in Ciudad Juarez in 2013. This is a substantial improvement over the 730 murders reported in 2012 and the 1,900 murders reported in 2011. 429 persons were murdered in Chihuahua City in 2013, a slight improvement over the 437 murders reported in 2012.  A significant majority of homicides in Juarez and Chihuahua City are drug cartel related; however, there have been cases in which innocent people are caught in the line of fire, or mistakenly targeted.  A significant majority of homicides in Juarez and Chihuahua City can be considered “drug-related”.  As a major drug trafficking corridor, the state of Chihuahua has been contested by two major Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) for years.  With more availability of drugs in Juarez, drug use has also increased locally.

Carjackings are a daily occurrence, with 1360 reported carjackings in Chihuahua State through December 17, 2013; 583 of these occurred in Juarez. This is a substantial improvement compared to the number of reported carjackings in 2012, which reported 1366 in Chihuahua City and 1842 in Juarez. Most carjackings occurred in traffic, and daylight is not a deterrent. Carjackings also occur in residential areas and industrial areas. Living in a gated community or working in a location with access controls decreases the likelihood of this type of incident.

 

As other sources of revenue have decreased, criminals have turned to extortion to augment their revenues. Extortion, or the threat of extortion, has forced many small-to-medium sized businesses in Juarez to close. Large factories (maquilas) are not immune to the threat, but it is less common. A frequent method involves a telephone call where the perpetrators say that they will harm the person or business if they do not pay for protection. These phone calls are often random, and originate from out of the area. Reports of extortion have declined in 2013, but the actual number is likely to remain severely underreported.  The Government of Chihuahua State and the city of Ciudad Juarez have taken steps to fight the problem of extortion, with mixed results and mixed reviews of effectiveness.   

 

There were 34 reported kidnappings in Ciudad Juarez in 2013. Many kidnappings are for ransom, while others are related to drug trafficking.  It is believed that kidnapping is underreported in Juarez and the entire state of Chihuahua for fear of retribution. 

Road Safety

 

Roads in the state of Chihuahua vary from modern toll roads to dirt tracks. It is recommended that travelers use only major routes during daylight hours. The highway from Ciudad Juarez to Chihuahua City benefits from significant traffic and police presence. The use of public buses is not recommended.

Road conditions in Ciudad Juarez are poor outside of major thoroughfares. Many roads do not have clearly marked lanes. Potholes and trenches can damage your vehicle or cause drivers to swerve into your lane or brake unexpectedly. With heavy rain, the roads can flood because of a lack of adequate drainage. Flooding is a concern when the volume of rainfall overwhelms the drainage capacity. Manhole covers may be absent when heavy rains force them from the sewers and are difficult to spot. Having a vehicle with high clearance is helpful in these situations. Travelers should realize that heavy precipitation can close routes and cause significant delays.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

The threat from international terrorist groups is low and large scale public demonstrations and or labor strikes very rarely occur in Ciudad Juarez or Chihuahua City.

Post-specific Concerns

Industrial and Transportation Accidents

The ability of local authorities to contain a major HAZMAT situation is limited. Emergency personnel are dedicated, but lack sufficient equipment to contain a major incident. The response time of local first responders is less than what would be expected in the U.S. If a major incident were to occur outside of a population center, the response time could take hours.  In the event of a transportation accident, both Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua City have the first response and medical infrastructure to sufficiently handle the situation. If transportation incidents occur in isolated areas, the response capability can be severely limited. Even on a major highway, assistance can be more than an hour away.

Economic Espionage/Intellectual Property Theft

Due to the large number of corporations and manufacturing facilities, these situations can occur, though there is no reporting to indicate that this is a serious problem.

Privacy Concerns

There are no serious privacy concerns in Ciudad Juarez or Chihuahua City.  However, there have been reports of credit card skimming/fraud.

Regional Travel Concerns and Restricted Travel Areas/Zones

Per the U.S. Department of State Travel Warning for Mexico: exercise caution in traveling to the business and shopping districts in the northeast section of Ciudad Juarez and its major industrial parks, and the central downtown section and major industrial parks in Chihuahua City. U.S. citizens should defer non-essential travel to other areas of these cities and anywhere else in the state of Chihuahua and travel during daylight hours between cities. In Ciudad Juarez, personal travel by USG employees outside the north/central and northeast portion of the city near the Consulate General is restricted and private U.S. citizens should defer non-essential travel to those areas as well.

In Chihuahua City, USG personnel and their family members are permitted to travel only to the central business districts and the city's airport. Personal vehicular travel during daylight hours by USG personnel and family members is authorized between Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua using the Highway 45 toll road. Although homicide rates in Ciudad Juarez have decreased markedly from a peak several years ago, the city still has one of the highest homicide rates in Mexico. Crime and violence remain serious problems throughout the state of Chihuahua, particularly in the southern portion of the state and in the Sierra Mountains, including Copper Canyon. U.S. citizens do not, however, appear to be targeted based on their nationality.  

Police Response

Levels of professionalism vary greatly among police agencies within Mexico. In major metropolitan areas, foreigners can expect support from police. Victims of crimes are encouraged to dial 066 while in Mexico for assistance.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

Americans traveling in Mexico are advised to cooperate with police if stopped or questioned. Americans who are detained or harassed by police should contact American Citizen Services during business hours at (52)656-227-3411. Outside of business hours, Americans should contact the Consulate Duty Officer at (52)656-215-0725. 

Where to Turn To For Assistance If You Become a Victim of Crime

If you require immediate assistance from police, dial 066. American victims of crime may contact American Citizen Services during business hours at (52)656-227-3411. Outside of business hours, Americans should contact the Consulate Duty Officer at (52)656-215-0725. 

Federal Police: Their primary function is highway patrol and airport policing. They have a reduced patrol capability in Ciudad Juarez due to a redistribution of Federal Police forces.  Special investigative units exist to investigate federal crimes.

Policia Unica: This is a recently formed unit (2012) with state patrol and investigative responsibilities.

Chihuahua State Police: They are in charge of investigation of all state crimes, and specialized groups for anti-kidnapping.

Municipal Police: They mainly patrol and perform crime prevention, having no investigative authority. They are the primary responders when summoned through 066 in a metropolitan area.

Transito: They are in charge of traffic enforcement and route control.

Medical Emergencies

For emergency medical assistance, dial 066. Ambulance service in emergencies is provided by the Red Cross. It is recommended that those residing or working in Juarez on a permanent basis contract with a private ambulance company for faster service. For hospital care, there are two modern facilities used by the consulate, with care at or near levels found in U.S. hospitals.

The following local hospitals have been identified by post as suitable for use by visitors to Ciudad Juarez:

Star Medica
Paseo de la Victoria 4370
Partido Iglesias
Ciudad Juarez, Chih.(52)656-227-5700

Hospital Angeles
Campos Eliseos 9371
Fracc. Campos Eliseos
Ciudad Juarez, Chih.
(52)656-227-1400

Hospital Cima
Hacienda del Valle 7120
Fraccionamiento Plazas las Haciendas
31238 Chihuahua City, Chih.
(52)614-439-2862

Hospital General Dr. Salvador Zibirán
Ejército Mexicano
El Bajo, Chih.
(52)614-415-9075

Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Extortion phone calls are very common. Have caller ID, and do not answer calls from unknown or suspicious numbers.

If travel is essential, it should only be performed during daylight hours. The area surrounding the U.S. Consulate is considered to be safer than most other parts of Ciudad Juarez.

Maintain a low profile, and be aware of your surroundings at all times. Trust your instincts. If you can avoid a potentially dangerous situation, do so immediately.

If you find yourself in an unavoidable dangerous situation, seek cover. Once the event has ended, seek assistance from police or the U.S. Consulate.

Displays of cash, jewelry or other perceived signs of wealth can attract armed robbers and pick-pockets. Items of minor value left in a car can trigger a break-in even when left for only a few minutes.

Hotel guests should keep valuables in secure locations. Do not leave jewelry, money, electronics, identification, or other valuable items unattended in hotel rooms.

U.S. citizens should be very cautious in general when using ATMs in Mexico.  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).  U.S. and Mexican citizens are sometimes accosted on the street and forced to withdraw money from their accounts using their ATM cards.

Use only taxis that are radio-dispatched or from a cabstand (sitio).  A hotel, restaurant, or bar can call a cab if needed. Do not hail a taxi off of the street.

U.S. Consulate Location and Contact Information

U.S. Consulate General  Ciudad Juarez

Paseo De La Victoria 3650
Ciudad Juarez, Chih.
Hours of Operation: 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday through Friday

Contact Numbers

Regional Security Officer (RSO): (52)656-227-3455

Consulate Operator: (52)656-227-3000
24-Hour Emergency: (52)656-227-3200
Duty Officer (Afterhours): (52)656-215-0725

OSAC Country Council

Ciudad Juarez has an active OSAC Country Council. Please contact the RSO at (52)656-227-3455 or DS_RSO_CiudadJuarez@state.gov for more information about meetings and participation.