Over the last year in particular, there has been an increase in violent crime in Yucatan. While some scandal sheets prefer to report luridly on the deaths of gay men, both Yucatecan and foreign-born, the reality is that the increase has been across the board.

Last year, at least eleven women were murdered, and at least eight of those at the hands of husbands, romantic partners, or jealous louts of one form or another.

At the same time, claims are made of rising murders against gay men. To achieve those claims – five by some reports – a little bit of conflation has been necessary.

For example, in one case, the “gay murder” involved two dedicated homeless alcoholics. While both were blind drunk, one bashed in the head of the other with a rock. To me, that hardly meets the definition of “gay murder,” but something needs to sell newspapers.

In another case, a young Yucatecan man murdered a well-known older Yucatecan man, apparently while intending to rob him. Once again, the gay panic defense was trotted out and the victim was given the blame.

Many people, along with organizations mentioned in the last post, believe that the situation is reversed: These deaths are actually are anti-gay hate crimes. Gay men are targeted because they are seen as easy targets with a bit of disposable income. The crime originates and ends with “let’s rob him and it is no big deal if we have to kill him,” because of messages from society devaluing gay men. Confessed killers have said as much in their statements to police.

Among expats, aside from the deaths of Mr. Wickard and Mr. Woodruff in 2012, various temporary visitors, resident renters, and homeowners have experienced home break-ins and burglaries, more so in the last couple of years.  In several cases, break-ins were possible because protectores were not installed on all doors.

Ground floor doors as well as roof access doors must be secured. Roof-hopping is a favorite criminal tactic in the wall-to-wall houses of Centro.

The first and foremost measure every expat should undertake is to avail themselves of protectores. If you rent and the landlord refuses to install adequate protectores on first floor windows and doors, you may choose to rent elsewhere.

Alternatively, you may like the residence or location enough that you wish to stay.  A solid set of protectores for one door should cost no more than $200 or $300 (US), painted and installed. If the landlord will not allow you to have them installed yourself, you really should look elsewhere.

Your safety and that of your valuables is at stake.

One unexpected encounter with a burglar could cost your life. It did for one retired single American woman many years ago and it could again.

In my opinion, life in Merida has evolved from being a concern about small property thefts which was previously the primary and generally only concern to being aware of measures to preserve your life first and foremost. No one need live in daily fear, but expats particularly should insure they are sleeping behind secured doors. It is simply common sense.

Do not admit uninvited, unknown persons, ever, into your home when you are alone. Do not fall for the “knock, knock…. It’s so hot, could I have water?” ploy. That is a common tactic used by thieves to gain entry to a home in Merida. Several expats have lost their wallets, purses or cash to such entreaties.

Never admit unexpected visitors, known or unknown, particularly late at night; particularly casual acquaintances; particularly if you only know them through some questionable connection. Only close, well-known friends should have the privilege of popping in at night.

In very general terms, the people of Merida and Yucatan are just as wonderful, warm, kind and generous as ever. But the days are ending where once every family knew every other family and all knew who lived on each block or knew who even had reason to walk there.

An influx of people from other areas has brought many residents who are not woven into the traditional social fabric of the city. Some of them – very few, but some – have decided this shelters them from detection or lessens their inhibitions for wrong-doing that being known amongst all neighbors might provide.

Yucatecan police remain among the most honest, dedicated to their tasks, and helpful police of Mexico. The city and state both have increased the number of officers employed and patrolling.  But they also do not know the people on the streets any more. Rapid growth has its downsides and rapid growth is continuing.

There is no shortage of websites and personal blogs touting wonderful aspects of living in Yucatan. I agree with all of them and wish that mentioning downsides was not necessary. Yucatan is a wonderful, magical, and comfortable land which has an extraordinary habit of making foreigners feel at home.

But reports of “safest state in Mexico” does not mean absolute safety. Normal precautions are still important. Far from being perfect, bad things from petty but heartbreaking abuses to killings do occur in Mexico, even in Yucatan.

Forty to fifty murders take place every year in the state of Yucatan. Burglaries are far higher – many per day, thousands per year – although local reporting says the majority of these are happening in outlying new fraccionamientos where everyone is away from home at work all day.

We all need to be aware of these statistics, each and every time we hear the constant business and tourist promotion of Yucatan as “safest state in Mexico.”

It is safe, but with an asterisk*.

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