The Facts Concerning Violent Crimes Committed Against US Tourists in Mexico
By: Jim Scherrer
This article is prepared in response to an extremely misleading and obviously biased piece recently published on a site known as OfficialWire.com and shown under the topic of Official Spin.; and spin it is! It was written by Derek Armstrong and posted on his website, Crime Report USA, as follows:
Mexico the Most Dangerous Country for Americans
Wednesday, December 23, 2009 at 3:39PM
U.S. Department of State Warns Largest Number of Non Natural Deaths Occur in Mexico.
Derek Armstrong, Chief Crime Correspondent
Crime Report USA: Mexico is overwhelmingly the most dangerous place for non-service Americans, topping the list of destinations with the highest "Non Natural Deaths", according to the US Department of State:
Top 5 Countries for Non Natural Deaths
Costa Rica 69
Since shocking and misleading headlines such as "Mexico the Most Dangerous Country for Americans" are designed to be attention grabbing, tourists that read such nonsense might want to do their homework before considering vacation destinations in Mexico; they must understand the facts and not be frightened by ridiculous fear tactics put forth by those with ulterior motives.
At first glance, the above article seems to indicate 651 non natural deaths occurred in Mexico last year, however, when the reader digs deeper into the article he finds that the data was obtained over a three year period from 2006 through 2008, resulting in about 220 non natural US deaths per year in Mexico. Of the 220 non natural deaths per year, approximately 50 are homicides, the balance being auto accidents, drownings, suicides, etc. per the US Department of State.
Next, the reader needs to understand that approximately 20 million Americans visit Mexico each year, far more than any other country in the world per the US Dept Commerce. Therefore, we know that about 50 individuals out of every 20 million US visitors to Mexico are murdered during a violent crime every year while in Mexico.
Okay, let's take it a step further; let's determine where in Mexico these violent crimes take place. When reviewing the data presented by the US Department of State, you'll see that the majority of these violent crimes occur in the border towns such as Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana. Therefore, the next time you plan your winter vacation you might want to avoid these areas; they're probably about as dangerous as Chicago, Detroit, or Los Angeles! Instead of vacationing in beautiful downtown Juarez, you might want to consider a resort destination such as Cancun, Cozumel, Cabo San Lucas, Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo, Acapulco, Huatulco, or Puerto Vallarta.
As 13 year residents of Puerto Vallarta, we can attest to the safety of this magnificent resort destination south of the border where the possession of hand guns is prohibited and violent crime is virtually nonexistent. For proof of this claim, we'll first determine the number of US citizens that visit PV annually and then get the facts related to violent crime in the area.
There are in excess of 200 cruise ships that visit PV from the US every year with an average of more than 2,000 passengers each; i.e. approximately 400,000 passengers arriving annually. During the six month "high season", PV receives more than 50 international flights daily. Let's assume that 40 are from the US carrying an average of 100 passengers on each plane; that's more than 700,000 passengers arriving by air during the six winter months. Next, let's assume that 30 planes arrive daily in PV during the six summer months of which 20 are from the US; that's another 350,000 passengers arriving by air during the "low season". Finally, we'll assume that another 50,000 people drive to PV every year. Totaling these conservative numbers, we find that at least 1.5 million tourists from the US visit Vallarta annually. A number of websites such as travels.com/destinations/mexico/puerta-vallarta-information put the total number of visitors at 2 million, others such as puertovallarta.net/fast_facts/where_is_puerto_vallarta.php peg it at 2.2 million and assuming at least 75% are from the US, our estimate of 1.5 million US visitors to PV per year is quite accurate.
Now, let's return to the data from the US Department of State. You will notice that during 2008, there were merely five non natural deaths of US visitors in Puerto Vallarta and only one was a homicide. (Chances are that he was doing something or involved with something that he shouldn't have been!). That's one violent death out of 1.5 million visitors for the year or less than 0.7 per million.
According to US government provided data, the US has 6.2 violent deaths annually per 100,000 residents. This information is readily available at the US Bureau of Justice and on other websites such as cdc.gov/nchs/FASTATS/homicide.htm. In other words, we have 62 homicides or violent crimes resulting in death per million residents in the US, or 93 homicides per 1.5 million; i.e., 93 times as many as in Puerto Vallarta!
You'll notice that the author of the referenced article is from Toronto, Canada; a beautiful city with a reputation for being quite safe, having a homicide rate of only 3.1 homicides per 100,000 residents per the Toronto Police Department or approximately half of that in the US. Still, that equates to 31 per million residents or 46 murders per 1.5 million people, i.e. nearly 50 times as many as the number of Americans murdered in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico! For example, in 2007, Toronto, with a population of 2,750,000 inhabitants, experienced 84 homicides or approximately 31 per million people.
You'll also notice that the author of the article publishes his propaganda on sites where feedback and comments are impossible; is it any wonder? There have been plenty of knowledgeable folks that have read preposterous articles such as the one addressed above and they too, are voicing their opinions and commenting on websites such as TheTruthAboutMexico.com. For the most part, these are people with intimate knowledge of Mexico and if it were dangerous for Americans in Mexico, they probably wouldn´t be living or vacationing there on a routine basis.
(Yes, I am biased and yes, I have an axe to grind [representing real estate buyers in Puerto Vallarta]; but more importantly, I feel it imperative for someone to set the record straight and not allow misleading propaganda to be published on the Internet without being challenged)
Finally, the above data tends to indicate that living in Mexican resort areas such as Puerto Vallarta is nearly 100 times safer than living in the US and 50 times safer than in Toronto, however this is really not the case since the data is skewed by the element of time. The millions of Americans living in the US or Toronto are permanent residents spending 52 weeks per year at home whereas the Americans visiting PV are only temporary. In order to adjust for this time differential, the following assumptions must be made: Those 400,000 cruise boat passengers spend only one day in town, those 1,050,000 passengers arriving by air spend an average of 10 days in town, and half of the remaining 50,000 that consider themselves to be American expats live in PV only during the "high season" while the other half live here year round resulting in an average for this group of 40 weeks per year in Vallarta. The following calculations show that this is equivalent to 68,200 Americans living full time in Puerto Vallarta.
400,000 cruise x 1day + 1,050,000 air x 10 days + 50,000 expats x 280 days =
year year year
400,000 days + 10,500,000 days + 14,000,000 days = 24,900,000 days
year year year year
24,900,000 days x year = 68,200 full time expats in PV
year 365 days
One American homicide per year in PV per 68,200 American expats equates to 14.6 per million or less than half experienced at the safe home town of the author of the misleading article and 1/4 as many as in the US.
In summarizing, the next time someone insinuates that traveling to or vacationing in Mexico is dangerous for Americans, you can present the facts to them. Hopefully, after reviewing this analytical approach with the documented facts and figures provided by the US government, you'll feel much more comfortable and inclined to visit our beautiful Paradise south of the border, where you have four times better odds of surviving than in the good ol´ US of A!
(As mentioned in this article, Derek Armstrong is with Crime Report USA which sounds like a pretty harmless deal. He´s a well published author and the founder of Persona Corp in Ontario, Canada. Here is the link that ties Armstrong to Persona.
Now that we´ve established who he is, we must ask, "Why is he trying to destroy tourism to Mexico?" Well, it just so happens that Persona Corp is very proud of their clients; you´ll notice that their client list includes the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, Ontario Ministry of Tourism and Recreation, a half a dozen real estate developers, and many other companies in Ontario that would love to see Americans cancel their plans to Mexico and visit Ontario instead. Mr. Armstrong also does work for the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, and in doing so, has also led us to believe in his articles that making films in Mexico is dangerous as well.
After all, Mexico enjoys 20 million US tourists annually while Canada has 13 million, the UK with 3 million and both Italy and France with 2 million, i.e. Mexico has almost as many US visitors as the next four countries combined. Derek Armstrong is a marketing man for Ontario and as such is doing a very subtle job, hiding under the cloak as a crime reporter, at attracting some of the 20 million Mexico visitors to Canada.)
About the Author
Jim Scherrer has owned property in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for 26 years and resided there for the past twelve years. The mission of his series of more than 70 articles pertaining to retirement in Puerto Vallarta is to reveal the recent changes that have occurred in Vallarta while dispelling the misconceptions about living conditions in Mexico. For the full series of articles regarding travel to and retirement in Vallarta as well as pertinent Puerto Vallarta links, please visit us at PVREBA