Crime in Lakeside a problem? What do Expats think?
Recently, an Expat shopper at Walmart left his wallet sitting on a counter and walked out of the store. He had barely made it to the parking lot when no one, but two Mexicans told him he forgot his wallet and that it was inside.
Patrick O’Heffernan (Ajijic, JAL).- In the past few months, a Pemex station in Chapala was robbed at gunpoint; the President of Jalisco admitted that home robbery was one of the Lakeside region’s most frequent crimes, especially in mountain communities like Chula vista Norte and Riberas de Pilar and robberies of three businesses and two private cars were reported. So, is Lakeside becoming a dangerous place? Does the Expat community worry about crime? Do they worry that Ajijic is now crime-ridden?
Recently, an Expat shopper at Walmart left his wallet sitting on a counter and walked out of the store. He had barely made it to the parking lot when no one, but two Mexicans told him he forgot his wallet and that it was inside. His comment after the incident was that in the US, where he was from, not only it is likely that no one would have told him, they would have probably kept the wallet. His perception of crime in Lakeside – at least against Expats, was that it is rare. He knew of one person who had been robbed and a few people who had been the victims of theft over the past couple of years.
His opinion is both substantiated and disputed in Lakeside’s general discussion boards (this excludes the dedicated crime discussion board on Facebook) which offered a range of views on crime. Many conversations focus on scams, thefts of ladders, and warnings not to open your door to people you don’t know, but there is little paranoia. Those who complained of crime and said they were leaving because Lakeside was no longer safe were contradicted by others who pointed out that crime exists everywhere and they felt very safe in Lakeside.
An very informal, very non-scientific, four- question survey conducted of Expats in Lakeside (all questions asked of people in Ajijic, although some lived in other towns) found that 95% think it is a safe place to live, but respondents were split almost evenly on whether or not crime was rising in Lakeside. Two mentioned a personal experience with crime (petty theft), most referred to stories on Facebook or in the media when asked if they knew of specific incidents of crime. The majority said they take routine precautions to protect themselves and their property as they would anywhere.
The perception of safety voiced by the respondents closely matches data. Statistically, Mexico and Chapala are very safe. The website NUMBEO aggregates and analyzes crime reporting from states and cities around the world and scores Mexico at 32.41, a rank of low. Its data show that crime in Mexico has been increasing at a low to moderate rate, but that concern about crime remains low, except for moderate concern for property crimes and vandalism, and a high concern for government corruption.
Closer to home, NUMBEO scores Ajijic with a low 29.73 Crime index – low, and a high Safety index of 70.27. NUMBEO’s survey data show that the perception of safety in Ajijic is high to moderate; examples include the perception that daylight walking alone seen as 92.6% safe and walking alone at night as 58.33% safe. A theory voiced b y a website dedicated to helping Expats move to Lakeside is that two groups in Mexico work to keep crime away from Expats: However, there are at least two groups who try to see to it that crimes against expats and other Americans in the Ajijic / Lake Chapala area are as low as possible: people who work for Expats or the local governments because both benefit from Expats, and organized crime which sells little to Expats but realizes that crimes against Expats could bring in investigations from the US or Canadian government, which are serious problems for cartels.
Comparisons between the US and Mexico reveal that for the most part, Mexico is safer than the US, with differences in some types of crime – more rape in the US, a higher murder rate in Mexico although very rare for Expats. Mexico’s overall crime level is ranked by NUMBEO’s Crime Index by County, Mid- Year 2019 at 35th globally while the US is ranked at 49th (higher ranking equals more reported crimes). Researchers note that crime reporting in Mexico is not as robust as in the USA – something the President of Chapala has complained about because it complicates prosecution – so the actual numbers in Mexico may be slightly higher.