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Chuck Bolotin of Best Mexico Movers – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Seamstress in Ajijic, MexicoThere is no more more important question about living in a place than "Is it safe?"  If you don't feel safe, nothing else really matters.
 
Also, safety is a personal, "feeling" issue; statistics and other people's opinions are not as important than how one feels.  As founder of Best Places in the World to Retire, I've interviewed hundreds of people living in the Ajijic / Lake Chapala area, and none of them are more worried about violent crime than they would be in their home country; some quite less so.  I have seen and interviewed 70- and 80-year-old single frail-looking women, who move around Ajijic with no feeling of being unsafe, and without any incidents whatsoever.  Many have lived here decades.
 
That doesn't mean that you can do stupid things and have no consequences.  Just like anyplace, it is not wise to flash a lot of cash, be extremely drunk by yourself and walking through dark allies.  Common sense applies here just like any other place.
 
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I must admit, though, that when I first came to Mexico, with my eyes more attuned to how things looked when they were dangerous in the US or Canada, it looked very unsafe.  I saw lots of high fences, barbed wire, security guards with guns, etc.  To me, all this shouted: Unsafe area!  Beware!!
 
However, all these items are not generally to deter violent crime; they are to deter theft, which is higher than I am used to in the US.  If you don't have these measures, there is a higher chance that you will have something stolen than if you lived in a safe suburb of the US or Canada.
 
Also, I should point out that the Mexicans in Mexico (certainly in Ajijic) are not at all like many of the Mexicans you may meet in the US.  Mexicans in Mexico are much more traditional and much less aggressive, to the point of being perhaps overly non-confrontational and even a bit passive.  They tend to be very gentle people.
 
So, to summarize and personalize, I don't worry at all about violent crime, but we do take measures to guard against theft.  If you do the same, you should feel extremely safe here.  We do.
 
The picture is of a typical person you might meet in Ajijic.  This woman did some sewing for me.  Here's the video.
 
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Jeff Smith of DocTours – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Traveler – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingIronically, American vacationers live in the nation with highest crime rate among First World countries. Even more ironic, it's American users, by demanding illegal drugs, who drive the crime in the supplying nations. At any rate, most Americans feel safe at home and can feel safe in Mexico.
 
Besides making a small town with many tourists and little crime your destination, there are also the sensible precautions anyone can take anywhere. Those include:
  • don't make gaudy displays of your wealth,
  • don't leave your valuables on display in an unlocked car, and
  • don't hang out at lowlife bars.
Of course, a crime could happen. But it could happen anywhere. Just improve your chances by going where it's safe.
 
That said, the chance of encountering a disturbing event is way, way unlikely on the Lake Chapala Riviera, home to the biggest expat community of American and Canadians outside of the US and Canada. There:
  • the crime rate is low,
  • natives are welcoming to visitors, and
  • government makes every effort keep tourists safe in order to enhance their tourist industry.
If you're traveling to receive medical treatment abroad, another good piece of advice is to use a medical facilitator, just in case something unpleasant does happen. Then you'll have a fellow gringo in your corner in that foreign country. That's your concierge, someone who lives there, has contacts, and knows the local ropes in order to, say, utilize proper and personal channels to retrieve some missing property.
Joan Silver – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
House with security bars on the windows, Ajijic, Mexico – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingI don't have the crime rate statistics, however I can certainly say that I have always felt safe here in Chapala and Ajijic. For 16 years in a construction site, we’ve only had 1 box of tools stolen. Like anywhere else, you need to be prudent and not go out late at night to a place where you really shouldn't be.
 
The lifestyle that we enjoy here in Chapala and Ajijic is going out to dinner with friends at restaurants or at their homes and most of the time we are home between 9:30 PM and 10:00 PM. It's not like we're hitting the bars where you have all sorts of unsavory characters. I think we feel safe in Chapala and Ajijic but we don't leave our doors unlocked. You wouldn't do that anywhere. Back in Ottawa, I always look behind me when I’m walking around. If I'm on the subway platform in Ottawa, I'm always conscious of what's going on around me. You also need to be diligent when walking around in Chapala and Ajijic as well.
 
A lot of children and adults often stay out late at night in Chapala and Ajijic. There isn’t any street I can name in Chapala and Ajijic where I feel uncomfortable. In Guadalajara, there would be neighborhoods where I wouldn't want to be out after 10:00 PM and certainly not in Ottawa or any other big city. Safety has a lot to do with Chapala and Ajijic being small towns and we just roll up the streets and go to bed. There's nothing much exciting after 9:00 PM. If I get off work late, or have to come to the office in the evening I see people out on the streets in Chapala and Ajijic but I've always felt very safe.
 
All of the windows in our houses in Chapala and Ajijic have bars and barbed wire on them in the front because it's recommended for safety. In Ottawa we brought in an ex-policeman to burglar-proof our house. He said you just have to make your house more secure than the one next door. Easy crime will go to where the windows are left open. Mexicans don’t show off what they have, which is part of their culture. They do all the security measures so the potential thief will go somewhere else.
 
Very often people are not here all year round. So they need to secure their homes as much as possible. Obviously it's better to have a property manager or a neighbor. Aside from putting up bars on windows, the best security for your home is good neighbors who look out for you, and barking dogs too. When we first came to Chapala and Ajijic, we saw that the houses had bars on windows which is part of the architecture and you make it as pretty as possible.  
 
(House with security bars on the windows, Ajijic, Mexico, pictured.)
David Truly of Dr. David Truly Ph. D. – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
David Truly with his band, The Tallboys thanking their fans, Ajijic, Mexico – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingChapala and Ajijic are generally very safe. Of course, there is petty theft but usually because people leave their laptops on their car seat in plain sight and someone takes it. My family and I have been here since 2006. Even during the years of the cartel violence, we never any felt that there was any targeted crime towards expats/foreigners.  
 
People who walk around with all their jewelry on and those who wear the flashiest stuff are setting themselves up for trouble but that is the same regardless of where you go. When you go to lesser developed countries, there are certain areas of towns that are not as wealthy so when you go riding your Mercedes and you are wearing your Rolex, you will be setting yourself up for trouble. It is the same thing as if you are driving around certain parts of Boston, Detroit, or New Orleans. But generally speaking, it is very safe. We raised our kids here and I have never felt any concern from them; as in a lot of Mexican villages, people look out for each other. Neighbors look out for everybody and neighbors talk to each other, particularly the Mexicans. The foreigners who come from places where they do not talk to their neighbors take some time before they adapt to this habit.  
 
Crime is very small here in Chapala and Ajijic but of course you don’t want to ask for trouble so you shouldn’t be going to places where you shouldn’t be. You don’t want to provoke people here. There are some expats who get very upset with workers and they tend to get too aggressive or too demonstrative about it and they can create a problem. These are the foreigners who probably do not belong here. If you come here, you have to realize that you are in another culture and it is different so you have to understand that.  
 
For many years the media painted Mexico as a very dangerous country. Yes, there are dangerous areas that are known for cartel activity but in general, there is very little of that going on right now. The level of violence among cartels has changed dramatically since the change in policies in politics. Overall, Chapala and Ajijic is a very safe place to live. We feel very comfortable and secure here.  
 
(David Truly with his band, the Tallboys thanking their fans, Ajijic, Mexico, pictured.)
Richard Tingen of Coldwell Banker Chapala Realty – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Home overlooking Lake Chapala, Mexico – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingOur main crime here in Chapala and Ajijic would be petty theft.  Personally, though, I can’t remember having being robbed here in the last 40 years. I tell people that when we were living here up in upper Ajijic, we missed one of the kid’s bicycles 30 years ago and they may have left it out in the street anyway.
 
If you leave your front door open I’m sure somebody’s going to come in and remove your computer, but being robbed at gunpoint is very unusual. It has happened and we do have crime just like any place in the world but it’s not very much. The bars in the windows are a traditional thing, like the high walls with the broken glass on top of them.  In my personal house, I don’t have a wall, I’m right on a main drive going into Chapala, and I’ve never had a problem. 
 
There was an American in the last 5 years who was held up at gunpoint, resisted and got shot. That hasn’t happened in 30 years but it happened about 5 years ago. So sure, we have crime. It’s not crimeless. There’s no place in the world that’s crimeless.
 
(Home overlooking Lake Chapala, Mexico, pictured.)
Michael Kavanaugh of Continental Realty – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Wrought iron bars on windows, Mexico – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingIf you are an American or a Canadian living in this area, your chances of having a non-violent crime committed against you—a robbery or something like that— is miniscule. It does happen but it’s extremely rare. 
 
I would say the same thing about Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where I’m from, because there’s not really a crime problem there. In LA, I don’t know. In places like Chicago, the murder rate in terms of foreigners is very high, but there is no murder rate here. It’s very, very rare, and like everywhere else, most of it is Mexican national on Mexican national, and is a drug-related issue. And even that’s fairly rare here. We’re sort of insulated from what goes on in the rest of Mexico, particularly closer to the boarder or in areas like Michoacán. We just don’t worry about it. 
  
The bars on the windows here are traditional because, in the old days, people were concerned about protecting what they had from those that didn’t have and it’s just followed through to today. Everybody does it. It just makes sense.  If you don’t have bars on your windows you’re inviting trouble because everyone else has it.
 
(Wrought iron bars on windows, Mexico, pictured.)
Anne Dyer of Casita Montana – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Ajijic, Mexico – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingI am a single person who has lived here for 29 years and I feel very comfortable and very safe. We just really don’t have major crimes in Chapala and Ajijic. We don’t have any real problems related to crime here.
 
I suggest to everybody to be cautious wherever they go, whether it is here in Mexico, in the United States, in Canada, or wherever. I still have family in Tulsa, Oklahoma where I am from and when I go there to visit, I feel just as comfortable there as I do here in Chapala and Ajijic.  
 
(Ajijic, Mexico, pictured.)
Luzma Grande of Ajijic Concierge Services – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Pool in common area, Ajijic, Lake Chapala, Mexico – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingIn 2012, we had a very bad situation involving a cartel but since then, I have not heard about anything serious. There was a person who died in the La Floresta neighborhood and they said that some mason people who were working around the development were the suspects for that murder. I believe so because that happens. You could get crazy people anywhere but these kinds of situations do not happen a lot. Of course, because it was so odd, people remember it forever, but overall, the probability of that happening again is very rare. 
 
I live in a gated community now and I am a very trusting person. I don’t even lock my car in front of my house at night. For our 29 houses, we have a gate that we only open using a remote.
 
There were times when I forgot and left my keys on the front door but I have never felt too worried about my safety. I decided to buy this house because of the security because I feel safe in a gated community. If you live in the middle of nowhere then you might not want to leave your car open and you won’t leave your keys in the front door. Safety really depends on the area.  I have heard of robberies here and there but those are petty crimes where people left things out in the open and they forgot to lock their doors or the windows in the kitchen. It is also very random. How would thieves know that you would leave the windows unlocked that day?
 
Overall, when I walk around here I do not feel concerned that I will be a victim of crime. It is that safe. My work demands me to go out very early at times. I sometimes take people at 4:30 AM to the neighborhood where my client stays so I could pick them up and take them to the airport but even then, I don’t feel unsafe that I am out very early and something might happen to me. I don’t feel threatened at all.
 
(Pool in common area, Ajijic, Lake Chapala, Mexico, pictured.)
Spencer McMullen of Chapala Law – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Painting of Lake Chapala by Felix Bernardelli, Mexico – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingThe Chapala / Ajijic area is generally safe.
 
There are different types of crimes that plague different countries and different areas. In certain neighborhoods of Guadalajara (a major metropolitan city about an hour north of Chapala and Ajijic), there have been armed robberies in buses and in the streets by motorcycle bandits. That doesn’t happen in Lake Chapala / Ajijic, where personal attacks are very rare. That’s not to say that you have the freedom to be under the influence of drugs or be drunk out on the street after midnight walking around in the city center, because doing so would be asking for trouble anywhere in the world. 
 
Even car theft is not that common in Chapala area or Ajijic. In Guadalajara they had a problem with people stealing parts off of cars or stealing cars completely, and they’re trying to put an end to this. I have more clients who reported their car stolen and then found out they forgot where they parked than really had cars stolen.  In Chapala, as with Guadalajara, there has been a little bit of an uptick in residential burglaries. In order to avoid that, just know your neighbors, don’t flaunt your wealth, and make sure you’ve got good locks on the doors.
 
Certain areas are more prone to burglaries due to the easy access to highways to get out after.  For example, Los Angeles, California is the bank robbery capital because it’s easy to get in and out. It’s rare in Lake Chapala for crimes against people, such as assault, murder, rape, something getting really beat up. When it does happen, there is attention called to it because it’s not that common.
 
In Lake Chapala, everybody has bars on their windows unless you live in a gated community. Even in the gated communities too, you still need to lock your doors but you’re not going to have the bars in the windows because it is harder to enter if the community has restricted access where they take your ID and they call to see if you’re home to let the person in. You don’t have the random people walking on the street being able to see your house.
 
The majority of the houses in the Lake Chapala / Ajijic area are probably not in gated communities. On the outskirts there are groups of houses clustered into neighborhoods and there are a few that have a guard shack but there’s no money to staff it so it is free come / free go. There are other communities that do have a guard gate that they do control. There are gated communities that have a common area, the club shack or the pool area. 
 
I’ve been here for 11 years. When my children were teenagers I would give them 200 pesos (about US $12) and a cellphone and they’d go to the market and walk on the malecon alone (walkway along the water), and I didn’t worry.  
 
(Painting of Lake Chapala in Mexico by Felix Bernardelli, pictured.)

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