Students traveling to Mexico for spring break may put themselves in danger if they don’t take necessary safety precautions.
On Feb. 20, the U.S. Department of State issued a travel alert to U.S. citizens traveling to and living in Mexico. In the past year, violence in the country has increased significantly, especially acts perpetrated by drug cartels in cities along the U.S. border. In 2004, 16-year-old Ashley Lynn Diniger, a Florida native, was driving back to the U.S. with friends when four Mexicans ran her friend’s minivan off the road and then shot her and her friend in the head.
In addition to high violence and crime rates in Mexico, there are many incidents of kidnapping and sexual assault. Most of the cases remain unsolved and only about 20 percent of criminals are actually apprehended. Travelers should give their itinerary to family and friends, avoid traveling alone or in dangerous neighborhoods at night, and valuables should be kept safe or not brought at all.
Due to the travel alert and safety issues, many students at the University of Miami have canceled their trips to Mexico for Spring Break. Sangeeta Kocharekar, a junior, is trying to decide whether she will still go to Acapulco even though her three friends canceled.
“I asked Mexicana Airline for a refund because of what was going on in Mexico and they said no,” Kocharekar said. “If I do still go, I might just stay in the hotel and try not to go out.”
Students who still decide to travel to Mexico’s hot spots (such as Acapulco, Cancun, Cozumel, Matamoros, Rocky Point and Tijuana) should make sure they register with the U.S. Embassy on the State Department’s travel registration Web site. This will allow the government to be able to assist them if anything were to happen. They should also make sure to periodically check for updates in travel alerts and warnings.
“I’m definitely going to be eyes-open to situations around me and I plan on registering with the embassy,” said junior Diana Escobar, who still plans on going to Cozumel for spring break. “At first I wasn’t afraid because the people I’m going with are Mexican, but I wasn’t aware of how serious it actually was.”
Even though this year there will be fewer students traveling to Mexico, it has always been a popular place to visit because it is warm and inexpensive and the drinking age is not strictly enforced. Students should keep in mind that alcohol is involved in most arrests, sexual assaults, accidents and deaths involving spring breakers. Most students, however, will enjoy their trip and have no serious incidents if they stay aware of their surroundings and take some precautions.
Cities in Mexico
|Acapulco||Increased drug-related violence; shootings; kidnapping; rape||Bahamas||Criminals target nightclubs and restaurants; pretend taxi services; lock valuables|
|Cancun/Cozumel||Crime at night; high sexual assault rate; property theft; undertow at beach||Costa Rica||Theft is a large problem; keep track of your belongings|
|Ciudad Juarez||Highest risk; 1,800 deaths since January 2008; 17,000 car thefts; weapons; drug cartels; muggings||Dominican
|Tourists are targeted for crime; police officials may accept bribes or use excessive force; protests|
|Mexico City||Drug trafficking gangs; narcotics; only travel during daytime; taxi robbery; assault||French West Indies||Guadeloupe and Martinique labor strikes and violent riots; armed gangs; food shortages|
|High motor vehicle accident rate; unpaved roads||Jamaica||Gang violence and shootings; weather issues|
|Oaxaca City||Protests; civil unrest; check travel alerts before visiting||Panama||Darien Province is restricted because of drug cartels and high violence|
|Tijuana||Don’t purchase prescription medicines; shootings; drugged drinks||Spain||Internet financial scams; threat of international terrorist attacks|