Crime and Safety

Is it safe to travel to Mexico? Top expert advice for visiting across the border

Eight US citizens have been abducted and at least two have been killed in Mexico in the past two months, leaving Americans wondering if it is safe to move south of the border.

In one horrifying episode, four South Carolina residents were pulled from a minivan by cartel members in Matamoros, Mexico.

Two of them were executed, and two more were found alive but frightened after a four-day search.

The FBI also offered a $20,000 reward this week for information leading to the return of another US citizen, Maria del Carmen Lopez, who was abducted in Colima on Feb. 9.

As spring break begins in the country, The Post spoke to travel experts to find out what precautions people should take to enjoy a safe and hassle-free trip to Mexico.

Do your research

Travel safety expert Kevin Coffey said any American traveling to our southern neighbor should do a lot of safety homework in the area they plan to visit before they travel.

“The average person spends hours and hours learning where they’re going to go and what they’re going to do – very few people take the time to study the risks,” said Coffey, who spent years with the LAPD investigating travel crimes. .

Is it safe to travel to Mexico?  Top expert advice for visiting across the border
Four South Carolina Americans were targeted by cartel members in Matamoros, Mexico on March 3.

“After you leave the United States, you should know a little bit where you are going.

“If you don’t, sometimes you’ll end up in the wrong place.”

Coffey considers the State Department website, which contains specific information about Mexico and destinations in the country, to be the most important resource for Americans.

Regions will be marked with varying levels of danger from level 1, which means taking normal precautions, to level 4, or a bold “do not travel” warning.

“Each person will have a different level of risk that they are comfortable with,” he added, not wanting to make a general statement about whether it is safe to go there.

If you decide to travel, you should register with the U.S. embassy closest to your destination through the Smart Traveler Registration Program, Coffey urged.

Free registration benefits include updates on safety conditions at your destination or the ability to contact you in the event of a natural disaster, civil unrest or family emergency, the website says.

Handcuffed people handed over to the Gulf Cartel
The Gulf Cartel handed over the men responsible for the kidnapping of four South Carolina residents, two of whom were killed.
Federal Ministerial Police

Get an international data plan

Anyone who is going to Mexico is advised to sign up for an international calling plan to keep their phone working while they are there.

So, in the event of an emergency, you can use your device to call loved ones, call emergency services, or share your location with others at home and receive a call or message from the State Department in an emergency.

Retired detective Coffey also recommends apps like GeoSure, which warn travelers of dangerous areas as they explore the city.

“Nothing is perfect, nothing will keep you completely safe, but it’s better than nothing,” he said.

Don’t look like a tourist

Another piece of advice Coffey gave was to not look like a tourist or become a conspicuous target by wearing expensive watches or jewelry.

“Don’t wear college and sports team logos because there are people who are specifically looking for people to target, and that’s mostly for pickpocketing,” Coffey explained.

“That’s what thieves do, they target us by the way we look.”

Will I be kidnapped?

The entire U.S.-Mexico border south of the international border is assessed as having an “extreme” chance of kidnapping, according to a risk forecast map by Crisis24, a global security firm whose employees include ex-military and CIA personnel.

Global security company Crisis24 has published a map of countries where kidnappings are most common.
Global security company Crisis24 has published a map of countries where kidnappings are most common.

All of Mexico is rated “high”, the second most dangerous level, but the border, Central Mexico and the region along the Gulf of Mexico are classified as “extreme” – the highest threat, The Post reported.

“In addition to the frequency of kidnappings, we also take into account local authorities and the likelihood that they will respond to kidnappings or crimes,” Daniel Saenz, an analyst with Crisis24 Intelligence, explained about how countries are represented on the map.

Popular tourist destinations such as Cancun and Cabo San Lucas are in regions of the country that are still considered safer, according to a recent US government travel alert.

Most of Mexico has the second highest kidnapping threat, according to Crisis24, but some areas shaded in red are considered to be at "extreme" possibility of bringing."
Most of Mexico has the second highest kidnapping threat, according to Crisis24, but some red-shaded areas are considered to be at “extreme” kidnapping potential.”

However, the security company noted that, in general, kidnappings of US citizens are not common, as cartels and organized gangs do not like the heat they bring on them.

“Attacks like this on Americans are rare because the last thing cartels want is attention from US law enforcement,” the security analyst explained.

“We don’t expect incidents like this to rise.”

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