Overall Crime and Safety Situation.
U.S. Consulate Ciudad Juarez 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 CIUDAD JUAREZ 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. The Consular District for the U.S. Consulate General in Ciudad Juarez is the entire state of Chihuahua. This report provides an overview of the security situation in the Ciudad Juarez Consular District, with a specific focus on Ciudad Juarez and the city of Chihuahua. For information regarding the security environment in other areas of Mexico, please refer to the OSAC Crime and Safety Reports from the following Consular Districts: Tijuana, Nogales, Hermosillo, Mexican Federal District, Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros, Monterrey, Guadalajara, and Merida.
While there is no indication that U.S. citizens are specifically targeted, violence and crime rates remain high in this area of Mexico. U.S. citizens traveling to Ciudad Juarez and the city of Chihuahua need to guard against robbery, carjacking, theft, and burglary.
From 2011 to 2015, reported homicides decreased in the state of Chihuahua; however, 2016 saw a significant increase in homicides with large fluctuations from month to month.
- State authorities reported 1,470 murders in 2016, up from 1,151 murders in 2015. There were 1,292 murders reported in 2014 and 1,706 in 2013.
- In Ciudad Juarez, there were 545 murders in 2016, an increase from the two previous years of 438 (2014) and 312 (2015).
- Similarly, in the city of Chihuahua, there were 326 reported murders in 2016, up from 158 reported murders in 2015 and 219 murders in 2014.
A significant percentage of homicides in both cities are cartel/gang-related and are targeted actions where the perpetrators generally avoid injuring innocent bystanders.
Carjackings declined in 2016 but remain a problem, with 278 reported incidents in Ciudad Juarez and 181 in the city of Chihuahua. In 2015, there were 598 reported cases in the state of Chihuahua, a decrease from the 771 cases in 2014. Most carjackings occur in traffic and are as likely to occur during daylight hours as after dark. These incidents take place in both residential and commercial areas. However, living in a gated community or working in a location with access-control measures decreases the chances of being a victim of carjacking.
Reports of extortion remained low in 2016, with 23 reported cases; however, the actual number is thought to be higher. The Chihuahua state government and Ciudad Juarez city government have taken steps to reduce extortion with mixed results. Large businesses (manufacturing plants) are not immune to extortion, although it is less common. A frequent method of extortion involves a telephone call in which the perpetrators threaten harm to the person/business if they do not pay for protection. These phone calls are often placed at random and can originate from outside of the state of Chihuahua, sometimes from inside Mexican prisons.
U.S. citizens should be cautious when using ATMs. If an ATM must be used, it should be accessed only during the business day at large, protected facilities (preferably inside commercial establishments, rather than at glass-enclosed, highly visible ATMs on streets). U.S. and Mexican citizens are sometimes accosted on the street and forced to withdraw money from their accounts using their ATM cards.
Other Areas of Concern
U.S. citizens should defer non-essential travel in areas specified in the Mexico Travel Warning and restrict travel between cities to daylight hours and on major highways. The area surrounding the U.S. Consulate General is considered to be safer than most other parts of Ciudad Juarez. Recent changes to the Embassy’s Mexico Travel Policy now permit U.S. government personnel and their family members to travel to the city of Chihuahua, Nuevo Casas Grandes, and its surrounding areas, and, with prior RSO approval and via specific routes, certain border cities.
Crime and violence remain serious problems throughout the state of Chihuahua, particularly in the south and in the Sierra Mountains, including Copper Canyon.
Transportation Safety Situation
Roads in the state of Chihuahua vary from modern toll roads to dirt tracks. It is recommended travelers use only major routes and drive only during daylight hours. The main highway from Ciudad Juarez to the city of Chihuahua (Highway 45) benefits from significant traffic and police presence.
Outside of major thoroughfares, road conditions in Ciudad Juarez are generally poor. Many roads do not have clearly marked lanes. Potholes and trenches can damage your vehicle and cause drivers to swerve into your lane or brake unexpectedly. Manhole covers may be absent when heavy rains force them from the sewers, and the resulting holes are difficult to spot. With heavy rain, the roads can quickly flood due to lack of adequate drainage.
In the event of a transportation accident, both Ciudad Juarez and the city of Chihuahua have sufficient first responder and medical infrastructure to 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.
For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.”
Public Transportation Conditions
The use of public buses is not recommended.
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 the street.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED CIUDAD JUAREZ AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED CIUDAD JUAREZ AS BEING A HIGH-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Large-scale public demonstrations or strikes are infrequent in Ciudad Juarez or the city of Chihuahua.
Flooding is a concern because rainfall tends to overwhelm the drainage capacity. High-clearance vehicles are helpful in these situations. Heavy precipitation can close roads and cause significant delays.
The ability of local authorities to contain a major HAZMAT situation is limited. Emergency personnel are available but lack equipment to contain a major incident. Likewise, the response time of first responders is slower than what would be expected in the U.S. If a major incident were to occur outside of a population center, the response could take hours.
Due to the large number of corporations and manufacturing facilities, espionage and intellectual property thefts can occur, though there is no reporting to indicate this is a serious problem.
The majority of homicides in Ciudad Juarez and the city of Chihuahua are considered to be drug-related. As a major drug-trafficking corridor, Chihuahua has been contested by two major drug-trafficking organizations for years. With greater availability of drugs in Ciudad Juarez, drug use has increased locally.
There were nine reported kidnappings in the state of Chihuahua in 2016 (up from six in 2015); four of these were in Ciudad Juarez. In 2014, the state of Chihuahua reported eight kidnappings. Ciudad Juarez reported no kidnappings during 2014 and 2015. These numbers may by low due to the fact that kidnappings related to drug trafficking may be recorded separately. Also, kidnapping is an underreported crime for fear of retribution.
Levels of professionalism vary greatly among police agencies. In major metropolitan areas, foreigners can expect support from police.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment
U.S. citizens are advised to cooperate with police if stopped or questioned. U.S. citizens who are detained or harassed by police should contact the American Citizen Services Unit during business hours at (52) 656-227-3411. Outside of business hours, U.S. citizens should contact the Consulate General at (52) 656-227-3000.
Crime Victim Assistance
If you require immediate assistance from police, dial 911. U.S. citizen victims of crime may contact the American Citizen Services Unit during business hours at (52) 656-227-3411. Outside of business hours, U.S. citizens should contact the Consulate General at (52) 656-227-3000.
Federal Police: The primary function of the Federal Police is highway patrol and airport policing. They operate with 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: A state police unit formed in 2012 with state patrol and investigative responsibilities.
Chihuahua State Police: Responsible for the investigation of all state crimes and includes specialized groups for anti-kidnapping.
Municipal Police: Mainly patrol and crime prevention without investigative authority. They are the primary responders when summoned through 911 in a metropolitan area.
Transito: Traffic enforcement and route control.
For emergency medical assistance, dial 911. Ambulance service in emergencies is provided by the Mexican Red Cross.
The Embassy has created a new webpage regarding hospitalizations and concerns about hospital practices. The document details what to expect when hospitalized in Mexico and actions that U.S. citizens may take.
Contact Information for Recommended Hospitals/Clinics
Modern facilities used by the U.S. Consulate General with care at/near quality levels found in U.S. hospitals include: