Safety Concerns Analysis - Ajijic, Lake Chapala, Mexico
Mexico often gets a bad rap in terms of safety. Often, expats, specifically pertaining to Americans and Canadians, have this stereotypical idea about Mexico - that it is full of gang activity, violence, petty crime, and rampant drug use and sales. The reality is that these stereotypes are just that, stereotypes. Your decision to visit or live in Mexico should not be based on these distorted views, rather, they should be based in fact and experience, both of which I’ll go over.
Mexico vs the United States
The general consensus is that the United States is viewed as safer, with much less criminal activity. But let’s see how the numbers stack up. In terms of gun crime per 100 residents, Mexico reports a number of 15, while the United States reports a number of 88.8. In this category of violent crime, the United States is ranked #1 across the world, while Mexico is ranked 40. The rate of U.S. gun crimes is six times higher than that of Mexican gun crimes. Before I delve into any of the other crime-numbers, this one is hugely significant. Despite the stereotypes, you are more likely to get shot in the United States than Mexico. Mexico reports 127.8 rapes per million people, while the U.S. reports 274.4. The United States is ranked 9th in this category, while Mexico is ranked 18th. Rape is twice as common in the United States as it is in Mexico, which dashes another common stereotype. Mexico’s murder rate is 218.9 per million people, while in the U.S., this number is only 42.1 - murder is 5 times as common in Mexico as it is in the United States. Now, while Mexico’s rising homicide statistics are a cause for concern, you don’t have to worry - this is where experience comes in.
Why You Don’t Have to Worry
Unless you looking to form your own cartel or are out looking for hookers and blow at 2 am, and you are using basic common sense you are going to be safer here than the majority of places in North America. For starters, as a human living in a society with other humans, some level of petty or violent crime is a given. There is no place you can go that will take you away from crime entirely, unless of course you buy a private island and live out your days as an introspective hermit. Lake Chapala, Mexico, has a crime rate that is quite comparable to the crime rates of other North American cities, including cities in Canada and the United States. But there is a specific reason that you, as an expat - retiring from either the United States or Canada - don’t have to worry. And it has to do with your status as an expat, or, if you’re just visiting, simply as a tourist. The reason for this is quite simple and related entirely to money - everyone benefits from an area that is populated with expats and tourists. The economic impact of retirees living in Mexico is believed to exceed $500 million annually - this is not a figure to laugh at.
And individual Mexican natives stand to gain in a variety of areas. For starters, there are the direct benefits American or Canadian retirees can grant to Mexcian natives - many retirees will hire Mexican natives to perform certain work like landscaping, housekeeping, etc., which makes expats a valuable monetary resource. There are also a whole slew of companies that exist to pander to the needs and wants of expats - restaurants, services, and even hospitals are all springing up in areas that are heavily populated by expats (like Lake Chapala) which provides countless job opportunities for Mexican Natives.
Mexican natives also stand to benefit from expats in a few less direct ways. For starters, because of the sheer quantity of revenue that tourism and expats generate, the Mexican government is highly intent on keeping those areas safe, accessible, and attractive.
There’s also the fact that this area specifically (Ajijic, Lake Chapala) is one of several places in Mexico that is known as an expat hotspot. So, not only is there a high number of expats, retires, and tourists in this area, the fact that this area has been so populated by those people for so long means that safety is not a concern. If it was a concern, the people would stop coming.
See the cycle?
Having the expats benefits everyone, including the country. So the government and its citizens make sure the areas are safe, to attract these expats. And the process continues - the more expats that come, the safer the area is, and the more attractive the area is to other expats. It’s the positive version of a vicious cycle, and one that will definitely serve to benefit you, should you choose to visit or retire to Lake Chapala.
Other Things to know
Generally, it’s a rule of thumb that you should avoid driving at night if possible in Mexico. But the reason for this is not what you may think. Nights in Mexico are no more dangerous than nights in the United States or nights in Canada. In fact, the vast majority of expats and tourists that visit Mexico, specifically Lake Chapala, have expressed, time and again, how safe they feel, even at night. The reason that people avoid night-time drives is a combination of cattle and large speed bumps create a potentially dangerous combination without the light of day.
How to Keep Your Property Safe
There are a bunch of general tips you can follow to ensure that your home in Lake Chapala is safe from any potential criminal activity. Of course, the things I am about to mention are applicable to just about every home in just about every location - like I said, crime is not a concern in Lake Chapala.
The biggest thing to know is that layers of protection work - many burglaries are conducted by untrained, unskilled, unintelligent people - this means they are easily deterred. A simple fence around your yard is a great place to start. If you’re feeling extra paranoid, you can top your fence with wiring to discourage climbers. Installing an alarm system with cameras is another great layer to add to your security - usually, the sight of a camera alone is enough to send a potential burglar packing. If you want to pack an extra punch and love dogs, get a guard dog. If the fence and camera aren’t enough to chase away wannabe thieves, a German Shepherd will most definitely get the job done. And then in general, just pay attention to how easy access to your home could be - is there a tree beyond your fence that could lead to a second story window if a climber was determined enough? Is your fence thin or rotting? For that matter, is your door thing? Are the locks or hinges old or rusting? These are just a few things to look for, to make sure that your home is as safe as possible.
The main takeaway here is that Mexico, and Lake Chapala specifically, are not nearly as dangerous as people might believe. In fact, and especially for an American or Canadian retiree or tourist, Lake Chapala is actually safe. That, combined with a little home-security ingenuity, makes the beautiful, peaceful, serene Lake Chapala even more accessible, and more than worth the trip.