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Petty Theft A Greater Concern in Cancun Than Gang Violence

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Revealing Local Survey Highlights The Biggest Concerns For Those Living In The Region

A new survey directed at local residents in Cancun and the state of Quintana Roo has revealed some interesting trends in regards to the problems impacting them the most. In particular, the study revealed how little concern residents have for the growing homicide rate.

cancun at dusk

The study, undertaken by the Quality of Life Association (QOLA), surveyed inhabitants of four cities in Quintana Roo – Cancun, Chetumal, Playa del Carmen, and Cozumel. Designed to understand the biggest concerns of those living in the area, it offered citizens the opportunity to rank their concerns from highest to lowest and also offer some of their own.

Interestingly, the rising homicide rate did not factor highly in the concerns of Quintana Roo’s residents. In fact, the topic didn’t break into the top ten concerns despite almost 150 murders taking place in the state since the beginning of the year.

police car in cancun

It appears that the local residents are grounded in the understanding that the major violence rarely touches the average person, and despite news of death almost every morning, the vast majority are directly involved with organized crime.

One member of the QOLA stated: 

“They are not so concerned about the executions, as they consider that it is a problem that concerns only criminal organizations. However, 84% of those surveyed who have a business did point out that their greatest concern is paying the flat fee, or being robbed by common criminals.”

tourist police in cancun

For the average tourist, this should bring an interesting perspective. The region has been covered extensively over the past few months for its growing violence. Cancun was even included on a list of the world’s most dangerous cities. Out of context, the stats make for worrying reading, and there is no doubt that some (although nowhere near as many as anticipated) have been put off by the potential danger. But the fact does remain that tourists do rarely find themselves in the firing line.

dusty street in cancun

Although tourists should display a higher sense of awareness in the area, the likelihood of falling victim to gang violence will remain very low. Recent headlines could easily draw concern, such as the murders of two sets of Canadians in the past few months. If glancing through the stories, it may appear that tourists are being murdered, but further investigation shows both instances involved long-term criminals who were involved with high-level organized crime.

tourist police station cancun

Knowing that robberies and street assaults are a worry for the locals, however, is definitely something tourists should make themselves aware of. As the income disparity in the region grows, as seen in Tulum, petty theft I likely to follow. The presence of tourists, with money, phones, cameras, and other valuables, is a highly valuable thing for desperate people. The US government has already advised tourists to avoid being out at night in the region and staying in the popular spots where many people are around. Basic safety can go a long way in preventing a situation from arising.

The rest of the list reads much like any other city’s main problems. Potholes, garbage disposal, sidewalks, and public transport remain high on the local’s lists. Most of these things will have virtually no impact on the tourist experience.


Another interesting omission was corruption. There appears to be a general acceptance that corruption will persist, regardless of what happens and so it has stopped being a concern for people.

Where corruption could impact tourists is not in the high-level echelons of politics but in the police force. Work is being done to counter the issue of police corruption, but stories continue to emerge of officers extorting tourists for money. Often they will suggest an immediate fine in cash, hoping to capitalize on the fear of arrest. If completely in the right, simply asking to go to the police station can end the interaction.

chetumal capital quintana roo

Tourists visiting the region should make themselves aware of the risks. Staying in the hotel zone is a good way to help guarantee safety, but even if heading outside, remaining vigilant at night will help. Always let someone know where you are when on day trips or nights out, and ensure you know the numbers to call in an emergency.  

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