IMPERIAL VALLEY – The U.S. Department of State has issued a warning to U.S. citizens regarding the risk of traveling to certain parts of Mexico due to the activities of criminal organizations in those areas. The warning was based on past recent activities including homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery, according to the website.
The warning is only for specific locations in Mexico and prohibits all U.S. government personnel and their families from personal travel to all areas about which the Department recommends â€œdefer non-essential travel.â€
According to the State Department, gun battles have taken place with criminal organizations in Mexico between rival groups or with Mexican authorities on streets and in public places during broad daylight. Even though the Mexican government dedicates substantial resources to protect travelers to major tourist destinations and has engaged in extensive efforts to counter criminal organizations engaging in narcotics trafficking and other unlawful activities throughout Mexico, the State cannot guarantee the safety of U.S. citizens or the ability to respond in a timely manner.
“Itâ€™s understandable that the government must alert its citizens on where they are going,” said Luis Lara, General Consulate of Mexico, located in Calexico. “Those who have traveled know, and you develop common sense, and know one shouldnâ€™t go in there. Â Most delinquents go after people who are not alert.Â Mexico should not be [solely] stigmatized with that because there are many places around the world, in the United States, and other dangerous places as well. Mexicali is known for the calmest border, here the crime is not as obvious as it is in other places. Here, there are not such obvious signs of organized crime like other places. Mexico is beautiful and it should be visited.Â I have many U.S. citizen friends that have traveled to Mexico and you can tell they are not locals and nothing has happened to them. They return happy and make plans to go back.”
According to the Baja California State Secretariat for Public Security, the state of Baja California has experienced an increase in homicide rates compared to the same period in 2016. While most of these homicides appeared to be targeted, criminal organization assassinations, turf battles between criminal groups have resulted in violent crime in areas frequented by U.S. citizens. Shooting incidents injuring innocent bystanders have occurred during daylight hours.
The State Department website warns about U.S. citizens being murdered in carjackings and highway robberies, frequently at night and on isolated roads. Carjackers, according to the site, use a variety of techniques, including roadblocks, bumping/moving vehicles to force them to stop, and running vehicles off the road at high speed. The State Department noted cell phone coverage is limited or non-existent in many dangerous locations.
Kidnappings of U.S. citizens generally occur in one of three ways, according to the State Department. The traditional method is the citizen being physically abducted and held captive until a ransom is paid. Or, the victim is abducted for a short time and forced to withdraw money from an ATM and then released. Another newer method is an extortion-by-deception scheme wherein a victim is contacted by phone and coerced by threats of violence to provide phone numbers of family and friends and then isolated until the ransom is paid. Hotel guests are the usual target of such â€œvirtualâ€ kidnapping schemes, according to State Department information.
Warnings for Baja California includes Tijuana, Rosarito, Ensenada, Tecate, and Mexicali. The release emphasized exercising caution in the northern state of Baja California, particularly at night. Criminal activity and violence, including homicide, remain an issue throughout the state.