U.S. citizens are getting killed, kidnapped, carjacked, and robbed in Mexico.
That's according to the U.S. Department of State, which put out a statement this week warning Americans about the potential dangers of traveling to Mexico.
The travel warning says certain parts of Mexico are risky for travelers due to criminal organizations in the area. That includes popular tourist destinations like Cancun, Cabo San Lucas, Cozumel and Playa del Carmen. There's a complete state-by-state assessment here.
Officials say 2017 has seen much higher rates of violence in those regions than during the same period last year.
In Quintana Roo, the state where Cancun is located, 169 killings were reported from January to July, more than twice as many as during the same period last year, the Los Angeles Times explains. And in Baja California Sur, home to Los Cabos and Cabo San Lucas, 232 killings have been reported this year, nearly four times as many as 2016.
The paper notes that the rise in homicides could be connected to a growing demand for heroin in the U.S., which has made rivalries between Mexican drug cartels even worse. On top of that, the rapid development in tourist areas brought more migrants who came to build new hotels and resorts, which may have helped contribute to the violence.
The State Department says it's common for gun battles between rival gangs or with Mexican authorities to take place on streets and in public places during broad daylight, and innocent bystanders have been killed.
Americans have also been murdered in carjackings and highway robberies, which occur most often at night and on isolated roads where cellphone coverage is limited or non-existent. The department advises Americans to use toll roads (aka cuotas) whenever possible.
They also warn of three popular forms of kidnapping:
- Traditional: the victim is physically abducted and held captive until a ransom is paid for release.
- Express: the victim is abducted for a short time and commonly forced to withdraw money, usually from an ATM, then released.
- Virtual: an extortion-by-deception scheme where 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. Recently, hotel guests have been targets of such "virtual" kidnapping schemes.
And because U.S. government personnel are prohibited from personal travel to the regions included in the travel warning, the State Department says its response time to emergencies involving Americans "may be hampered or delayed."
Should I cancel my trip?
Well, there are some areas not included in the advisory, like Mexico City, as well as the states of Hidalgo, Campeche, Tlaxcala, Yucatan, Tabasco, Queretaro, Puebla and Guanajuato.
But the State Department says U.S. citizens should exercise caution all throughout Mexico, because crime and violence can still occur.
The good news (if you can call it that), is that there's no evidence U.S. citizens are being targeted based on their nationality.
And in general, authorities say there's not as much drug-related violence and crime in resort areas, because the Mexican government dedicates "substantial resources" to protect visitors in major tourist destinations.