Mexico Aims to Allay Fears on Crime

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Mexico tourism officials were taking steps to allay concerns about crime against U.S. visitors, following a two-part network television broadcast that painted the country -- especially Mexico City -- as a dangerous destination.

Crime in Mexico was spotlighted on two recent broadcasts of "20/20," one of which placed blame on travel agents and U.S. government officials for not properly warning visitors.

"We are planning a public relations campaign for travel agents and the embassies in order to have a better image of Mexico City and not to take things out of context," said Agustin Arroyo, director-general of image and tourism marketing under Mexico City's newly appointed secretary of tourism.

Officials also are eager to cite recent crime rate decreases in Mexico City.

The airing of the shows came shortly after the government approved a tourism promotion council to position the city as a leisure destination.

Federico Moreno, senior director of marketing for the Four Seasons in Mexico City and president of the promotion committee for the Mexico City Hotel and Motel Association, said the attention the U.S. media have given the city's crime rate has often been sensationalized.

"One thing is the headlines and the other is the in-depth story. It is a very narrow view of the situation," Moreno said. "The fact is, we do have a [crime] problem, which is being addressed."

Mexico City's new mayor, Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, has said that battling rising crime is one of his top priorities.

The city's police chief, Rodolfo Debernardi, earlier this year unveiled a community security project to combat crime. It included:

  • Strengthening police presence, especially in tourist areas.
  • Dignifying the police force by increasing salaries.
  • Recognizing police officers for heroic actions.
  • Modernizing the communications system to expedite response times.
  • Prosecuting all crime suspects.
  • According to Debernardi, the project so far has resulted in a 5% decrease in crime overall and a 50% decrease in crime in the Cuauhtemoc Delegation, a part of the city where several major hotels are located.

    Moreno said travelers heading to Mexico City should be aware that they are going to a large metropolis, and exercise the same caution they would in New York or Paris.

    "In large cities around the world, [criminals] target tourists," Moreno said, adding that Americans are not necessarily a prime target. "They will target tourists to the extent that [tourists] draw attention to themselves," he said.

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