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. The state of Nuevo Leon has been assessed as Level 3: reconsider travel.
Overall Crime and Safety Situation
U.S. Consulate General Monterrey does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The American Citizens’ Services unit (ACS) 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 Monterrey 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 Department of State divides its roles and responsibilities in Mexico among 10 consular districts spread across Mexico. This Crime and Safety Report focuses on the U.S. Consulate General in Monterrey's consular district of the following five states: Nuevo Leon, San Luis Potosi, Durango, Zacatecas and the southern two-thirds of Coahuila. For information regarding the security environment in other areas of Mexico, please reference the OSAC Crime and Safety Reports from the following Consular Districts: Tijuana, Nogales, Hermosillo, Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros, Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Merida.
Overall, crime and violence are serious problems and can occur anywhere. U.S. citizens have fallen victim to criminal activity, to include: homicide, gun battles, kidnapping, carjacking, highway robbery. Violent crime (kidnappings, extortions, homicides, sexual assaults, personal robberies, residential break-ins) and non-violent crimes (financial scams, vehicle thefts, petty drug crimes) continue to be a serious concern for those living or working in Monterrey’s Consular District. Organized criminal elements contribute to the high level of crime in the region. While many of those killed in organized crime-related violence were involved in criminal activity, innocent persons have also been killed.
Reported homicides in 2017 increased in most of Monterrey’s Consular District over 2016:
Zacatecas: 687 cases (22% increase)
Nuevo Leon: 656 cases (1.9% increase)
San Luis Potosi: 524 cases (57% increase)
Coahuila: 251 cases (2% increase)
Durango: 225 cases (5% decrease)
Reported extortions have increased in Zacatecas and Durango, both of which saw the highest increases at 132% and 47%, respectively. They declined in Coahuila by 12.5% and in San Luis Potosi by 24% over 2016. (source: Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Publica – SNSP)
U.S. citizens should be very cautious when using ATMs in Mexico. If an ATM must be used, it should be accessed during regular business hours and at 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. ATM/credit card fraud takes place throughout the district, though statistics are limited. Travelers should be cautious when using their credit cards. Travelers should be alert for skimming devices. Cards should not leave the sight of the traveler, as many businesses have portable card readers that should be brought to the consumer. Upon returning home, travelers should examine their statements for any unauthorized purchases. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report, “The Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud.
Other Areas of Concern
Due to drug-related violence associated with Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCO), U.S. government personnel are not permitted to drive between Monterrey and the U.S. border. U.S. government personnel in Monterrey may travel by land to the states of San Luis Potosi and Zacatecas using toll roads and may overnight in the capitals. Personnel may also travel to parts of Coahuila (Saltillo, Parras de la Fuente, Bosques de Monterreal). Travel is permitted within the state of Nuevo Leon via toll roads. U.S. government personnel must remain in San Pedro Garza Garcia from 0100-0600 (0500 if traveling to the airport).
For more information, please review OSAC’s Report, “Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.”
Road Safety and Road Conditions
If traveling by road, exercise caution and avoid traveling at night when possible. Traffic patterns change without notice due to road construction or maintenance, and traffic is often severely impacted, causing major traffic jams throughout the city. Vehicular accidents are very common along the highways leading to/from the city and are often due to aggressive driving behavior. It is recommended to travel with at least half a tank of gasoline, spare tire, and a charged mobile phone. For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.”
The highway to Reynosa continues to see an increased level of violence; the highway to Laredo has seen markedly fewer incidents. Travelers should pay close attention to local news reports and the Consulate messaging to reduce their chances of encountering these situations. Toll roads, while generally safer, can also be targets for cartel-related carjackings.
Throughout the highway system, travelers will encounter checkpoints often manned by the military. Travelers should be cautious at these checkpoints but follow directions.
If stranded on the highway due to vehicle malfunction, dial 078 for roadside assistance. This service is provided free of charge by Mexico’s Department of Tourism to all road travelers.
Travelers should also remember to safeguard their vehicle while in the district:
If your spare tire is mounted on the outside, secure it in place with chain/padlock or similar device.
Replace two lug nuts on each wheel with specially keyed bolts that locks or can only be removed with a special attachment to the tire iron.
Try to avoid parking on the street. Try to park inside a residential compound, in a parking lot with an attendant, or at least within view of the location of your visit.
Public Transportation Conditions
Hailing taxis off the street is strongly discouraged. Visitors are advised to use dispatched taxis or hotel transportation services.
Other Travel Conditions
If possible, satellite phones should be used, as there are many areas in the district where mobile phones have limited/no service.
Travelers should not hitchhike or offer rides to strangers anywhere in Mexico.
The U.S. Department of State has assessed Monterrey 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 are no known local terrorist groups operating in Monterrey’s Consular District, the presence of TCOs have had a major impact on the security environment. Corruption is a serious problem, not only in the police but in other areas of government as well. Beheadings, torture, and other gruesome displays of violence occurred in the Consular District in 2017.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
The U.S. Department of State has assessed Monterrey as being a HIGH-threat location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
On July 1, 2018, Mexico will hold a nationwide general election. Depending on the outcome, protests against government officials are a possibility.
Large-scale public demonstrations or strikes are uncommon in Monterrey, but occasional, nationally-organized protests do involve Monterrey. Most protests are local and do not pose a threat to U.S. citizens. Small, peaceful demonstrations occur periodically at various government buildings: the Palacio del Gobierno (Government Palace) and Procuraduria General de Justicia (Mexican Attorney General’s office). These protests typically form along the city’s main arteries and may cause traffic jams.
In January 2017, there were numerous protests against the rise in gas prices. One of these demonstrations involved an estimated 10,000 people and was largely peaceful, but there were instances of looting and property damage.
Travelers are advised to avoid demonstrations and other activities that might be deemed political by the Mexican authorities. The Constitution prohibits political activities by foreigners, and such actions may result in detention and/or deportation.
Monterrey is prone to flash floods during the hurricane season. It is common for streets to flood and for parts of the city to be completely cut-off during periods of heavy rains. Avoid driving or walking in flooded areas. Every year, a number of deaths are attributed to pedestrians or vehicles being swept away by rushing water in flooded areas.
Industrial accidents are a concern in highly-industrialized areas of the city and along rail lines. The state of Nuevo Leon has a highly-trained team (Proteccion Civil) that can handle most industrial accidents, including HAZMAT spills.
Monterrey sits astride one of the busiest transportation corridors in Mexico, and many of the highways are crowded with trucks laden with cargo.
Personal Identity Concerns
Women traveling alone are especially vulnerable and should exercise caution, particularly at night.
The threat of TCO-related violence remains the most significant security concern in Monterrey’s Consular District. Police continue to confront the cartels and their associates, and these confrontations can result in shootouts on public roads. Following the confrontations, police frequently discover weapons to include assault rifles and in some cases explosives.
As the cartels’ senior leadership is either killed or arrested, junior cartel members experiment with express kidnappings, extortion, and home robberies as methods to acquire money.
Reported kidnappings in the Monterrey Consular District rose in all states, except Coahuila. There were 158 reported kidnappings in the five states in 2017. In the district, there have been cases of traditional, express, and virtual kidnappings.
Victims of traditional kidnappings are physically abducted and held captive until a ransom is paid for their release.
Express kidnappings are those in which a victim is abducted for a short time and forced to withdraw money, usually from an ATM, then released.
A virtual kidnapping is an extortion attempt by deception scheme, wherein a victim is contacted by phone and convinced to isolate themselves from family/friends until a ransom is paid. The victim's family is contacted and a ransom for the victim extracted. Some travelers to Mexico staying at hotels have been targets of virtual kidnapping schemes.
Travelers are encouraged to contact the police if they encounter any calls where a ransom request is made. The U.S. Consulate advises that the families of kidnap victims consider contacting local authorities to help resolve a kidnapping matter. Families of kidnapping victims who are U.S. citizens should contact the Consulate’s Americans Citizen Services office or the local FBI office for assistance. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report, “Kidnapping: The Basics.”
Police response and professionalism varies widely depending on the municipality, and police response can vary widely depending on the type of emergency and area. State, federal, and military forces have stepped up the security coverage in an attempt to stabilize remote areas, although many remote areas remain largely underserved. Although the confidence in the police remains low in much of the Consular District, in the state of Nuevo Leon, the recently established Fuerza Civil has significantly improved security and has been called a model for other states to use in combating corruption.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment
Police corruption continues to be a problem. Offering a bribe to a public official to avoid a traffic fine or other penalty is a crime in Mexico. U.S. citizens are advised to cooperate with the police if stopped or questioned. If during a traffic stop or other detention the police demand a bribe, visitors should refuse to pay the bribe.
File complaint anonymously: 089
Nuevo Leon Anti-corruption: 070
If detained or harassed by the police, visitors should contact American Citizens Services (tel: (81) 8047-3100 or after hours emergency assistance (81) 8362-9126.
Crime Victim Assistance
Although police services may not be similar to those in the U.S., visitors are strongly encouraged to contact the police in case of an emergency by dialing 911. For information regarding assistance for U.S. citizens who become victims of a crime, please contact the American Citizens Services office at (81) 8047-3145 during work hours 8 a.m. - 5 p.m., Mon-Fri, or the Duty Officer at (81) 8362-9126 outside work-hours.
Monterrey has adequate medical facilities. Facilities outside of the metropolitan area are more limited. In an emergency, dial 911; however, wait times for ambulances can vary greatly. Permanent residents are encouraged to contract with a private ambulance service in order to ensure prompt service.
Contact Information for Available Medical Service
For medical assistance, please refer to the Consulate’s Medical Assistance page.
Travelers should ensure that they have adequate health insurance while traveling. Local hospitals generally require payment in advance. Many U.S.-based health insurance plans do not cover travelers in Mexico, and medical procedures can sometimes result in bills of several thousand dollars.
Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Mexico.
OSAC Country Council Information
The Monterrey Country Council is active, meeting quarterly during the year. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Western Hemisphere team with any question.
U.S. Consulate Location and Contact Information
Consulate Address and Hours of Operation
U.S. Consulate General Monterrey
Prolongación Ave. Alfonso Reyes No. 150
Col. Valle Poniente
Santa Catarina, Nuevo León, Mexico 66196
Business hours: 0800-1700
Consulate Contact Numbers
Switchboard: (81) 8047-3100
After hours, U.S. citizens needing emergency assistance may call the duty officer at (81) 8362-9126.
Embassy Mexico City: https://mx.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/embassy/
Consulate Ciudad Juárez: https://mx.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/ciudad-juarez/
Consulate Hermosillo: https://mx.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/hermosillo/
Consulate Matamoros: https://mx.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/matamoros/
Consulate Mérida: https://mx.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/merida/
Consulate Guadalajara: https://mx.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/guadalajara/
Consulate Nogales: https://mx.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/nogales-2/
Consulate Nuevo Laredo: https://mx.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/nuevo-laredo/
Consulate Tijuana: https://mx.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/tijuana/
Travelers are encouraged to keep apprised of current travel warnings via, http://travel.state.gov/, and U.S. citizens are encouraged to register in the Smart Traveler's Enrollment Program (STEP). All travelers are advised to check the State Department's Travel Advisory for Mexico for up to date information.
Mexico Country Information Sheet