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If you are considering crossing the border into Mexico you may want to check out the State Department's Travel alert for Mexican side of the US / Mexican border. If you have never been to Mexico before or if your trip was longer ago than a year or so, you should check out the Travel State "Tips for Travellers to Mexico" prepared by the U.S. Department of State. Even though it is a long document, read all of it carefully so you know just what to prepare for so you can enjoy your visit with peace of mind.

Violence in Northern Mexico
U.S. citizens are urged to be especially aware of safety and security concerns when visiting the border region.

The U.S. State Department has issued a warning to alert U.S. citizens to the continuing unsettled public security situation along the Mexican side of the U.S.-Mexico border. According to the news release:

Violent criminal activity fueled by a war between criminal organizations struggling for control of the lucrative narcotics trade continues along the U.S.-Mexico border. This has resulted in a wave of violence aimed primarily at members of drug trafficking organizations, criminal justice officials and journalists.  However, foreign visitors and residents, including Americans, have been among the victims of homicides and kidnappings in the border region.

A power vacuum within criminal organizations resulting from the imprisonment of several of their leaders along the Mexico-U.S. border continues to contribute to a deterioration of public safety in the region.  In recent months, the worst violence has been centered in the city of Nuevo Laredo in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, where more than 30 U.S. citizens have been kidnapped and/or murdered in the past eight months and public shootouts have occurred during daylight hours near frequented shopping areas and on streets leading to the international bridges.  One of the shootouts spilled onto the Mexican side of the bridge itself.  Four police officers have been killed in Nuevo Laredo since March. 

Mexico's police forces suffer from lack of funds and training, and the judicial system is weak, overworked, and inefficient. Criminals, armed with an impressive array of weapons, know there is little chance they will be caught and punished. In some cases, assailants have been wearing full or partial police uniforms and have used vehicles that resemble police vehicles, indicating some elements of the police might be involved.

U.S. citizens are urged to be especially aware of safety and security concerns when visiting the border region.

CRIME IN BORDER CITIES: Visitors to the U.S. - Mexico border region, including the cities of Tijuana, Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Laredo, Nogales, Reynosa and Matamoros, should remain alert and be aware of their surroundings at all times.

Drug-related violence has increased dramatically in recent months, and shows no sign of abating. While U.S. citizens not involved in criminal activities are generally not targeted, innocent bystanders are at risk from the increase in violence in the streets of border cities. In Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Laredo and Tijuana, shootings have taken place at busy intersections and at popular restaurants during daylight hours. The wave of violence has been aimed primarily at members of drug trafficking organizations, criminal justice officials and journalists. However, foreign visitors and residents, including Americans, have been among the victims of homicides and kidnappings in the border region. In recent months, the worst violence has been centered in the city of Nuevo Laredo in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, where more than 45 U.S. citizens were kidnapped and/or murdered between August 2004 and July 2005. U.S. citizens are urged to be especially aware of safety and security concerns when visiting the border region and exercise common-sense precautions such as visiting only legitimate business and tourist areas of border towns during daylight hours.

Mexican authorities have failed to prosecute numerous crimes committed against American citizens, including murder and kidnapping. Local police forces suffer from a lack of funds and training, and the judicial system is weak, overworked, and inefficient. Criminals, armed with an impressive array of weapons, know there is little chance they will be caught and punished. In some cases, assailants have been wearing full or partial police uniforms and have used vehicles that resemble police vehicles, indicating some elements of the police might be involved.

Visitors are very vulnerable when visiting local "red light districts," particularly if they are departing alone in the early hours of the morning. In Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana, there has also been a rise in automobile accidents in which municipal police extort money from U.S. citizen victims.

Check the U.S. State Department Mexico pages here for the latest information.

When you cannot access the internet you can find updated information on travel and security for Mexico from the Department of State by calling 1-888-407-4747 within the U.S., or from overseas, 1-202-501-4444.

Before you enter Mexico be sure you have the proper documents for getting back into the U.S. after your visit. A passport (previously not required) is now advisable and will be required soon. If you are a seasoned traveller and already have a passport, you probably just need to check out the changes in procedures that have recently gone into effect.

If you have never been to Mexico or if your trip was longer ago than a year or so, you probably should also check out the Travel State "Tips for Travellers to Mexico" prepared by the U.S. Department of State. Even though it is a long document, read it carefully so you know just what to prepare for so you can enjoy your visit with peace of mind.