There has been crime in our area -- and the kind of criminals that exist I guess universally: pick-pockets, extortionists, house thieves. Drugs exist, too, but so far there's nothing close to the narcowars of other areas. There has been violence. Most of the murders and assaults occur among people in bars and in poorer neighborhoods. But the average murder rate in Xalapa was 12 over maybe the past three years prior to the narco incident in which the military and police did some zapping. There has been one murder and one kidnapping in Coatepec. There've been a couple of brutal incidents in Xico that I know about, those between people who knew and were angry at each other. As in the US and elsewhere, victims of crime tend to be poorer and live in poorer neighborhoods. Criminals tend also to be poorer and from poorer backgrounds. There have been some glaring exceptions. At least two wealthy older women have been robbed recently in Xalapa, one badly beaten. Even more attention-getting was the murder of a wealthy young man and his wife. The husband had some ties to narcos.
It turned out that the kidnapper of a restaurant owner in Coatepec apparently came from our Colonia. He was pursued by police through the coffee fincas that line the road we run on.
Good friends of ours in Coatepec were robbed while away in the United States. They and we have experienced extortion phone calls as has one of the store owners they know.
Jim and I were subjected to an attempted pick-pocketing scam in Xalapa, but fortunately (or unfortunately) we were the victims of the same scam in Barcelona so we knew what was happening and escaped with wallet intact.
The news of crime brings sadness to old-time residents who remember our area as one with low population, tight social networks, little crime.
I will baldly state here that crime in our area, while it exists, is pretty low. I will add, without having investigated this hypothesis, that I suspect that street life is one reason it is low. People like to hang out in public places in large numbers, which is one of the reasons I really like living here.
Anyway, certain crimes can survive in areas where people hang out in parks and on the street at night. Two that seem dominant are extortion by telephone and getting people to fall for scams near banks. The municipio de Coatepec has published some guidelines to avoid being victimized. You can read them below in English (my translation). As I mentioned, Jim and I received a call trying to convince us that one of us would be kidnapped if we didn't give money. We had in our house at the time some friends from Xico. The son, Victor, who is quite savvy about stuff like this, handled the call. He then summoned the police who came in a big show of force and we never heard any more.
So, below, how to be street smart in Coatepec.
Recommendations for the Citizens of Coatepec from the Offices of Public Security and Civil Defense in Coatepec
These are some recommendations from the Department of Public Security in Coatepec to assist citizens in avoiding being surprised by extortionists and swindlers.
Actions which help prevent your being the victim of extortion:
- If possible, have caller ID.
- Don’t share personal information with people you don’t know.
- Have an agenda (planner, etc) with family information such as cell and home phone numbers. With both numbers, you’ll be able to reach family on one phone even if the other is in use.
- Talk about the subject with your family and agree on a code you can use in case of emergency. Your family member will realize you are in trouble if you use an agreed-upon word.
If you receive an extortion call, remember the following recommendations:
- Above all, remain calm
- Hang up as soon as you realize the purpose of the call is to extort you.
- Take time to think and calm down in case they call again.
- Write down information about the extorton call such as the time of the call, the number from which they called you, any names they used, including yours.
- Don’t transfer the call you receive on a land line to a cellular phone. Don’t give them a head start on your movements.
- Don’t make any deposit of money if you haven’t informed the authorities.
- Verify with your family or the authorities the information the extortionist has given you about the detention of someone in your family.
- Dial 89 for guidance and to make a report.
You can obtain more information from the following numbers:
Emergency service, 066; anonymous reporting, 089 and 816 0708 (DSPM)
Recommendations for avoiding being surprised by swindlers and crooks
It is very common for this type of person to pretend to have found packages or envelopes with money, which they say contains a check and to ask for financial assistance or cash for the check.They also may claim to have a winning lottery tickets or something similar. If you have the slightest suspicion, you should get away from the person and report the event to the Emergency Center at 066 which is a free call.
Normally these swindlers approach bank clients even, on occasion, inside the building, choosing as their victim someone who doesn’t take the precaution of hiding the money which he has withdrawn and thus attracting the attention of the criminals.
It can also happen a few steps away from the bank, in the street, since the majority of times, two or three people, including women and even children, can be in on the crime.
“Señora, you dropped this package,” “Listen, didn’t you see that I dropped a purse with money” or,” Look, I found this money just lying there. We can divide it,” are some of the hooks which thieves use to deceive their victims.
- Don’t get involved talking to unknown people outside of banks.
- Ignore comments about lucky finds of money.
- Seek police help in a loud voice in the face of an insistent speaker.
- Avoid showing cash in public.
- Try to go to the bank accompanied by another person who can keep an eye on the surroundings.
The original guidelines can be found at:
By the way, the populationo of Coatepec is roughly 75,000. The population of Xalapa is somewhere between 600,000 and a million.
Good advice anywhere.