San Miguel, reportedly the most beautiful city in the world, was safe five years ago, with little crime, a few muggings, purse snatchings or home or business burglaries.
Today, we still feel safe walking the cobblestone streets IF we walk through the spring-like nights in a group of four. Like others travelers, we take precautions. Should we go to the big Tuesday market, we do as a Mexican woman and put pesos between our bra or in a hidden pocket. Credit cards, passports, identification papers are left in a secure place before going off to a concert, lecture or art opening.
An ex-pat, a resident here for sixteen years, a crime victim many times in the last five years, mostly burglaries, reported security issues at a recent Rotary meeting. “In this town the size of Bronx, New York, there are fewer than l00 police. Forty percent were taken off the force recently because they failed honesty tests.” He is working with an ex-pat and Mexican committee who want to see more police on the streets, especially in the higher crime areas, and the return of stolen property.
The local English newspaper, the Attention, has just reported that a small force of touristic police will patrol the area appointed as a World Heritage site in the coming months. This year the municipality will receive l0 million pesos earmarked for the prevention of crime from the federal government. That money is to be spent for youth industrial workshops, purchase of motorcycles and other vehicles like pick-up and sedans, radios, and to help pay for tests of control and trust for police officers.
The local security committee wants to see more cameras on the streets, the 200 or more taxi drivers be given cell phones to report crimes, and to invite the concerns of the hundreds of volunteers organizations in town.
“Crime became known here when the U.S. prisons began deporting persons to their home countries. They returned here with new skills learned in U.S. prisons,” he said. “According to law, no policeman can enter a home or car without the owner’s permission. Mexican people are peaceful, family-oriented, and loving by nature, but are ready to action when the fabric of society breaks down.”
As current visitors we see police do an occasional drive-by on our little street and go by flashing their lights. There are visible police at the Tuesday market, something we haven’t seen before. We have also witnessed several careless tourists, from all over the world, who invite pick-pocket crimes or muggings. One gentleman during a huge celebration in the major plaza stood under glaring lights passing out cash from a billfold he took from his back pocket. It plainly showed his passport.
There are women who casually hang their purse over the rung of a chair as they are dining, a blatant invitation to a thief.
This town is beautiful in so many ways. Here it is like anywhere else. Crime is increasing, a price we pay for living in a global world.