FAQ: Property Crimes

How secure is my home in Mexico?

You will never be 100% secure in any country. The goal is to use a combination of security tools that make your home the most difficult target on the block. As the old saying goes, “I don’t have to be able to out-run the bear; I just need to be able to out-run you”.

Is it safer in a gated community?

Some people think so. Others claim it just makes you a target with a big banner advertising that behind that wall is a lot of valuable stuff. I can say that I have first hand knowledge of people in a nearby gated community being robbed, with about the same frequency as people who live in detached homes outside of that community. Ultimately you have to decide for yourself if it’s worth the extra money you have to pay to live in a gated community and if you can live with all the rules typically imposed upon residents. After all, rules and regulations are one of the main things people want to get away from when they move to Mexico.

What can I do to boost my home security?

Home security should take the form of a multi-layered design. Some of the forms to consider: perimeter walls or fencing with or without barbs, secure door and window locks, protection bars over openings, timer-controlled indoor and outdoor lighting, motion sensitive outdoor lighting, monitored alarm system, video cameras, electric gate openers, electrified (cattle) fencing, and of course a guard dog. I have all of these things and do not have problems. Is it impenetrable? Nope, but the neighbor’s house is a much easier target.

Property crime is increasing. What can we do?

Two words – Neighborhood Watch. We did this in Canada when we had a surge of home burglaries and we did it again here in Mexico. Both times it was effective. If you don’t already have a Neighborhood Watch, canvas your neighbors and form one. During a particularly peak period here, we even had teams out patrolling the neighborhood at night with two-way radios and high powered flashlights. Word got out very quickly and the thieves moved to other areas with less protection. Part of the process involved designing an effective communication system for the community, which we now make available to others. Click here to see it.

I’ve been burglarized. What do I do?

If you’ve just come home and found evidence of entry, do NOT enter the property. Call 9-1-1 and wait outside for police to arrive. If you have a Neighborhood Watch, alert them. Once the property has been cleared, take inventory and figure out what’s missing. Review your video cameras. You have those, right? Look around the area outside your property; often thieves stash stolen goods and come back for them later. File a formal denuncia (complaint) to report the crime. This is the only way you’re going to get action and potentially get anything back. Do NOT offer to pay the police to recover your stuff. If you have corrupt officers and do that, you just advertised a money-making scheme is available in your neighborhood. If you were my neighbor you’d be getting a visit.

What to do during extended absences?

If you are a seasonal resident or need to leave for more than a very short time there are several things you should do. Notify your neighbors and your Neighborhood Watch, but do NOT post anything on social media. If you have a monitored alarm, notify the company. Arrange for someone you trust to check on your home periodically, bring in any mail, and do a walk around the home checking doors and windows. To help them spot activity, rake any sandy areas so that fresh footprints will be evident. Put timers on indoor lights and/or a radio or other noise making device. Better quality timers offer several different cycles or random on/off times to give the appearance that someone is home. Set your cameras to email you whenever motion is detected and log in remotely to review footage if that happens.

What should I consider before hiring a caretaker or gardener?

There are different types of caretakers. Some people hire maids or gardeners who come in regularly. Others hire helpers only when needed to trim trees or do repairs. Some hire property managers who are supposed to care for the home during absences. But in all cases, keep this in mind. Mexico has a fabulous communication system – it’s called word of mouth, and it works at lightning speed without any evidence left behind. You can be sure that when you leave your home, everybody knows within an hour. And if that maid has been casing the inside of the house, inventorying all the valuables, and the gardener has figured out the one place they can climb over the wall without being on camera, you may have a problem. This is not to make you paranoid. However, there is danger in being too trusting or assuming. Refer back to the “this is a poor country” dialog and realize that you have to play the game smarter than the bad guys if you want to come out on top. Before hiring anyone, do your very best to talk to others and check references. Even then, circumstances can change and that trusted maid who has been doing your neighbor’s house for years suddenly has a root canal to pay for. And there’s your diamond ring sitting on the dresser. Sometimes there’s a benefit to doing your own laundry and gardening.

I have a dog. That’s enough security, right?

It’s a very good first step and an essential part of an overall security strategy. But to rely on nothing else is foolish. Mexicans are nothing if not resourceful. They know how to overcome obstacles, including snarling guard dogs. A good personal friend had their dog killed by over the counter drugs, given to him in advance of an attempted theft. I’ve personally had my dog drugged one night when three guys came over our wall. But just enough to slow him down, and they didn’t know about the video cameras. They all went to jail.

Can I have a gun in my house?

You can, but with restrictions. Many guns are not legal in Mexico but a homeowner is allowed to have one on the property (nowhere else) for protection. Guns can only be purchased from the military store in Mexico City, with the proper permits. Once transported to your home it cannot be taken anywhere else. And if you use it, be aware there may be criminal consequences, even if used in defense.

What about other weapons?

There are many things that can be used for self defense, from baseball bats to machetes, but whatever you use must only be used to stop a threat. If for example, you knock down an attacker with your baseball bat and then continue to hit him once down, you could go to jail.

Should I pay the police to protect my home?

Absolutely NOT! Police get paid to do their job. Not well, but they do get paid. The low level of pay is what pushes them to ask for mordida but if you contribute to it you are making the problem worse, and it is illegal. In our neighborhood we do an annual police appreciation day. We invite the whole local force for a big dinner, where we all get to see each other face to face and we have an opportunity to thank them for protecting our community. No money or gifts are exchanged but we do get good cooperation from our local force.