The Mayor of Rocky Point is in Tucson this week to talk to city leaders about tourism and job growth.
Rocky Point Mayor Ernesto "Kiko" Munro and Pima County Supervisor Ray Carroll switched jobs for two days to promote economic development and tourism. At a press conference Monday, Munro says about 2 million people travel to Rocky Point each year, and 11% of them are from Tucson.
Last week the U.S. Department of State updated an already existing travel warning for Mexico. While the Department of State says typically tourist destinations like Rocky Point don't see high levels of organized crime, the state of Sonora is a key region for drug and human trafficking.
The only advisory that applies to Puerto Peñasco is U.S. travelers shouldn't drive at night, and use the Lukeville Port of Entry. The advisory says "...you should exercise caution while transiting Vicam in southern Sonora due to roadblocks that can be instituted ad hoc by local indigenous and environmental groups. U.S. citizens visiting Puerto Peñasco should use the Lukeville, Arizona/Sonoyta, Sonora border crossing, and limit driving to daylight hours."
While Munro respects and understands the warning from the U.S. government, he says Rocky Point itself is a safe place for tourists.
"Rocky Point right now is one of the safest places in the Northwestern Mexico," Munro said. "We want to keep it that way."
Munro says he can't recall any recent incidents where Americans have been victims of crimes committed by Mexicans in Rocky Point. However, U.S. citizens have been victims of violent crimes throughout Mexico, including car jacking and kidnapping. The Department of State reports 103 Americans were killed in the country in 2015, up three from 2014.
Rocky Point is taking steps to make tourists feel at home, Munro said. Starting next month, tourist police will roam the streets as unarmed guides to aid guests in town. Munro says they will be educated in the history and culture of Rocky Point and can teach others. Also in the works is an app that will allow tourists to report anything suspicious to Mexican authorities.
"We're trying to be innovative, up to date," Munro said. "And we're trying our best effort to make the Rocky Point experience a safe one."
Munro says there is a major cruise port being built in Rocky Point, and it should be done in 2017. When fully operational he says it should help bring in thousands of tourists, many of whom may have to travel through Tucson.
Pooja Jhunjhunwala, a spokesperson for the Department of State, says the agency reviews travel warnings on a regular basis and the most recent one on Jaunary 19th was routine.
Similar travel warnings are in effect in 37 countries, and Jhunjhunwala says these are the new updates for Mexico:
- Aguascalientes: Intercity travel at night is prohibited for U.S. government personnel.
- Coahuila: When traveling through the state, U.S. government personnel are allowed to travel using toll highway 40 to highway 57 and only during daylight hours.
- Colima: U.S. government personnel are generally prohibited from traveling within 12 miles of the Colima-Michoacán border. Intercity travel at night is prohibited for U.S. government personnel.
- Jalisco: Use of Highway 80 between Cocula and La Huerta is prohibited for personal U.S. government travel.
- Nayarit: U.S. government personnel may travel to Riiera Nayarit, San Blas, Santa María del Oro, Tepic, and Xalisco using major highways when available. Intercity travel at night is prohibited for U.S. government personnel.
- Oaxaca: In Oaxaca city, U.S. citizens should avoid hiking around the auditorium and observatory at Cerro del Fortin, as foreigners are routinely held up at knifepoint and robbed in that area.
- Quintana Roo: Exercise caution when traveling south of Felipe Carrillo Puerto or east of Jose Maria Morelos as cellular and internet service are virtually non-existent.
Jhunjhunwala could not give Nine On Your Side specific crime stats regarding Americans in Mexico. He says the warnings are formulated using Mexican crime statistics and other public information, as well as assessments by the Embassy and nine U.S. consulates in Mexico.
There is some kind of advisory for 21 of Mexico's 31 states, according to the advisory.
U.S. officials say to be cautious when traveling to Baja California as Tijuana and Rosarito saw an increase in homicide rates last year. Most of them appear to be related to organized crime, but there have been shooting incidents in which innocent bystanders have been hurt.
The Department of State also says Americans should defer any non-essential travel to the state of Sinaloa except for the cities of Mazatlan, Los Mochis, and the Port of Topolobampo where you should exercise caution. U.S. government officials say that one of Mexico's powerful criminal organizations is based in Sinaloa, and it has high crime rates.