FAQ: Petty Theft

Is petty theft a problem in Mexico?

Undoubtedly the most likely form of crime you will encounter in Mexico is petty theft. Whether in the form of home burglary, pick pocketing, or auto theft, it’s common to hear about or be a victim of this type of crime. With so many people struggling to make ends meet, a “rich” foreigner presents an opportunity. Do not underestimate the lure; protect your valuables and make smart decisions to minimize your exposure.

What can I do to protect my valuables?

First off, keep your valuables out of sight whenever possible. Temptation unseen is temptation unrealized. This is not a concept unique to Mexico. We’ve had car windows smashed in sleepy Canadian towns because someone left some parking change in the console. Thieves don’t do an analysis; they don’t care if the broken window is going to cost 500x the value of the three coins in your console. So cover up, put things away, use a visible steering wheel lock, and you will reduce your exposure. Put a tracking app on your smartphone. Write your name and ID number on other valuables. On your person, don’t wear flashy jewelry or keep your wallet in a baggy back pocket or haul out a bundle of bills at the cashier and ask them to pick which ones they want because you “don’t understand Mexican money”. You might as well stamp TARGET on your forehead. Use the same common sense at home too. We have a special section on property crimes where you can get more information in that area.

I’ve experienced a theft. Now what?

Depending on the circumstances, if there is evidence and a chance of recovery, file a complaint (denuncia) with the local police. Despite what the internet may have told you, not all police in Mexico are corrupt. I personally had a cell phone stolen from my car and thanks to my dash cam, a tracking app on the phone, and the help of the local police, it was recovered within hours. Even if you don’t get immediate results, keep in touch with the police as they do from time to time bring out their stash of recovered property to see if they can find the owners.