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Mexico 2018 Crime & Safety Report: Guadalajara

Western Hemisphere > Mexico > Guadalajara


According to the current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication, Mexico has been assessed as Level 2: exercise increased caution, and the state of Jalisco has been assessed as Level 3: reconsider travel.

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Consulate General Guadalajara 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 Guadalajara 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 original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.

The U.S. Consulate General in Guadalajara covers the states of Jalisco, Aguascalientes, Nayarit, and Colima. The U.S. private sector has a significant presence in Guadalajara, Aguascalientes, Puerto Vallarta, and Manzanillo (Mexico’s largest containerized cargo port). Guadalajara is the capital of Jalisco and is home to over 200 American companies. Metropolitan Guadalajara is the second largest city in Mexico with a robust middle class.

Crime Threats

The city has a reputation for illicit money transactions and legitimate business, and drug trafficking organization (DTO) activity intermingle. If you think you hear gunshots, seek cover.

There are multiple reports of homicides, assaults, robberies, and car theft. Robbery, auto-part theft, and telephonic extortion are the most frequently reported non-violent crimes in the consular district. Thieves often operate in heavily-congested areas to steal bags, electronics, and jewelry. Occasionally, they use motorcycles to escape. During the Christmas season, the Guadalajara metropolitan area typically experiences an increase in crime.

In 2016 and 2017, Jalisco experienced an increase in missing persons reported, which are not categorized as a kidnapping or a homicide.

Auto-part theft is very prevalent in the Guadalajara Metropolitan zone. Thieves usually target easy-to-remove parts (spare tires, side mirrors) and side molding and grilles. These thefts usually occur after dark from cars parked on the street. Utilizing pay lots is the easiest way to reduce the risk of auto-part theft.

Carjacking commonly involves the threat of force. Late-model trucks and SUVs are often, but not exclusively, targeted. In 2016, Jalisco experienced more than 100% increase in carjackings. Thieves rarely harm victims who do not resist. Reducing travel in rural areas and non-toll highway roads, especially after dark, can significantly reduce the threat of carjacking.

Residential break-ins usually occur at middle to moderately wealthy homes where thieves have conducted surveillance. Some investigations reveal domestic staff have been complicit. Homes with extra security measures or personnel are less likely to be targeted. Homeowners are advised to vet domestic staff and never keep large quantities of cash at home.

Reports of sexual assaults against U.S. citizens mostly occur in popular tourist destinations. Often, perpetrators target intoxicated tourists in bars and nightclubs. For additional information, please see the OSAC report “Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad.”

The states of Colima and Nayarit have received recent attention due to drastic increases in homicide rates per capita. While the violence largely transpires between rival drug trafficking organizations, there is potential for collateral casualties.

Aguascalientes continues to be one of Mexico’s safest states.

The Executive Secretariat of the National System of Public Security reports yearly data on homicides, kidnappings, and various other crimes in every Mexican state. The following charts compare reported homicide and kidnapping statistics in Jalisco, Nayarit, Colima, and Aguascalientes. (see charts in attached pdf)

Regarding cartel violence, wrong-place/wrong-time incidents present the greatest threat to personal safety. The best ways to reduce the risk is to practice good personal security habits, especially maintaining high situational awareness and promptly departing from potentially dangerous situations.

Transportation-Safety Situation

For more information, please review OSAC’s Report, “Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.”

Road Safety and Road Conditions

A variety of road conditions exist throughout the region. Toll (cuota) highways are comparable to U.S. interstate highway standards with multiple traffic lanes and broad paved shoulders. The cuotas generally have better lighting, frequent police patrols, fewer access points (on/off-ramps), and are considered a safer way for overland transit. Drivers can further reduce the risk of carjacking by limiting intercity travel to daylight hours.

Non-toll (libre) highways are usually in poorer condition. They are usually two-lane roads with no shoulder. There are more reported incidents of carjackings and shootouts between rival criminal groups, particularly after dark, on the libre highways.

Road conditions in urban areas can also vary considerably. In upscale or tourist neighborhoods of major cities, the roads are well maintained, whereas roads are often poorly maintained in marginalized areas. There are large speed bumps installed around major cities, including on some highways, that are often poorly marked. Drivers should be alert for changing road conditions. Drivers routinely disobey even the most fundamental traffic laws and commonly treat red lights like stop signs, crossing as soon as they have checked for opposing traffic. For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.”

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

Public Transportation Conditions

Uber and taxi services in major cities are generally reliable and safe. For more information on ride-sharing, please review OSAC’s Annual Briefing Report “Safety and Security in the Share Economy.” It is recommended to take taxis from registered taxi stands (sitios) instead of hailing taxis on the street. Restaurant and hotel staff can also be relied upon to summon a registered taxi.

In Guadalajara, mass transit is generally considered unsafe for travelers. Pickpocketing, bag snatching, and armed robberies are common on buses. However, the most dangerous aspect of using the bus is the operator's reckless driving.

Generally, taking a charter bus is safe, except in those areas where the Mexico Travel Advisory warns against non-essential travel. U.S. government personnel often use charter buses to move between Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

Uber and Taxi service from the airports is also considered safe. Arriving passengers should look for a sitio taxi kiosk in the arrival terminal of the airport and pay the fare at the kiosk before exiting the airport and boarding a taxi.

Terrorism Threat

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Guadalajara 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 Guadalajara as being a HIGH-threat location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Civil Unrest

Non-violent demonstrations routinely occur in Guadalajara and other cities in the consular district. They are primarily organized by political parties, students, labor-rights, or indigenous-rights groups and are mostly non-violent. Demonstrations have blocked roads or obstructed access to businesses. The Consulate is not aware of any protests targeting U.S. business interests in recent years.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Pacific hurricanes are a threat to the coastal areas of Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo, but the 2016 and 2017 seasons were calm and did not inflict damage.

Drug-related Crimes

Drug trafficking continues to be a significant issue throughout Mexico, affecting the security climate and influencing local politics. In 2017, the Attorney General for the state of Nayarit was indicted in the U.S. for corruption and drug-related crimes. Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) is the most powerful DTO in the region.

Nayarit, western Jalisco, and Colima are major marijuana cultivation zones. The region is also known as a primary methamphetamine production area in Mexico. The port in Manzanillo (Colima state) is a major gateway for precursor chemicals. Cartel fighting over control of the port has been a major contributing factor to the increase in Colima’s homicide rates.

While cartel-related violence has been on the rise, it is largely targeted against rival cartels and often does not impact civilian populations. However, within Consulate Guadalajara’s four-state area of operations, five government officials were assassinated between October 2017 and January 2018 by DTOs.

Kidnapping Threat

Reports of virtual kidnapping scams continue to surface. 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, a caller claiming to be a member of a well-known DTO will contact a family member of an alleged victim to demand ransom for their release. Other types of virtual kidnappings include communicating via text message only from stolen/lost cell phones or convincing individuals to isolate themselves in an effort to extort money from their families. Information that can be used against victims may also be obtained from social networking websites. Report kidnapping-related incidents to the police and the U.S. Consulate. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report, “Kidnapping: The Basics.”

Police Response

The Mexican government’s response to the DTO threat has been to increase military and police operations targeting cartel leadership. The Jalisco State Police have dedicated resources to under-equipped municipalities. Police are more responsive in cases of active threats or violent crime.

The Aguascalientes State Police are extremely effective in curbing criminal activity and benefit from the latest technology and training. Their police force is a national example that other jurisdictions seek to duplicate.

Not all uniformed police perform investigative functions or can take complaints (denuncias). In some cases, their roles are to patrol and prevent crimes. Tourism Police are specifically assigned to police tourist areas and are commonly the only units that speak English. Their main purpose is to enhance the safety of tourist areas by deterring crime and responding to accidents. Tourist police are not able to take denuncias but can assist travelers in contacting the authorities who can.

Rural areas are often under-policed, as Mexican authorities concentrate their limited police resources on urban areas. Municipal police in rural areas are often not well funded, trained, or equipped.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

If you feel you are the victim of harassment, mistreatment, or extortion by Mexican law enforcement, note the officer’s name, badge number, or patrol car number. Mexican authorities will cooperate in investigating such cases but require this information to pursue a complaint effectively.

Crime Victim Assistance

Reporting crimes can be a long, frustrating experience. Denuncias must be made to police or the local branch of the State Prosecutor’s Office (Ministerio Publico). When making a denuncia, the burden of proof is on the individual to substantiate that a crime occurred. Even when a denuncia is filed properly, it must be ratified by the complainant several days later. This becomes impossible for many visitors on short stays.

Even in cases when a denuncia is properly filed and ratified, police rarely investigate non-violent or minor property crimes. Major crimes 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 the American Citizen Services office of the Consulate.

Ministerio Publico

Jalisco: (33) 3837-6000

Aguascalientes: 478-2800

Colima: (312) 312-7910

Nayarit: (311) 129-6000

Medical Emergencies

There are two medical systems in Mexico: 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 911. In major cities, ambulance response time is typically 10-15 minutes, depending on the location. In rural areas, public health facilities are often the only option, and the level of care can be substantially lower than that 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.

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

For medical assistance, please refer to the Consulate’s Medical Assistance page.

Available Air Ambulance Services

Airlink Ambulance

3629-8700 (in Puerta de Hierro)

01 800 024-8600

Insurance Guidance

Most private hospitals and emergency services require payment or adequate guarantee of payment before services will be provided.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Mexico.

OSAC Country Council Information

The Guadalajara Country Council meets quarterly during the year. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Western Hemisphere team with any questions.

U.S. Consulate Location and Contact Information

Consulate Address and Hours of Operation

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

Consulate Contact Numbers

Consulate main number: (33) 3268-2100 or (33) 3268-2200

Consulate after-hours: (33) 3137-2833

Consular officers are available for emergency assistance 24 hours/day, 7 days/week.

Regional Security Office Duty Agent: (33) 31895-7414


U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Mexico:

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Consulate Guidance

All U.S. citizen travelers should register with the nearest U.S. Consulate through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).

Additional Resources

Mexico Country Information Sheet