Crime in Yucatan

Donations for the Poor 

 Last year, a young woman rang our doorbell asking for a donation for a disabled child. We live in the Santa Ana district of downtown Merida and she said the funds were being raised by Santa Ana church to pay for surgery for the kid. I dug out fifty pesos and handed her the money. She asked whether she could come in and have a glass of water. “Of course,” I said.

  She came in and I went back to the kitchen to get the water. She gulped it down and asked for another glass. I went to get it, and this time she followed me back and passed me, walking out into the patio. I quickly filled the glass and brought it out to her. She drank a bit and left.

  Now she was wearing a lot of make-up. And some key teeth were missing from her mouth. And she looked a bit floozy-ish for a church girl. But I figured, I’m a foreigner, what do I know?

  Later in the day, I discovered that the bag I kept the cash in – in my purse – was gone. And so was my cell phone. Both were in a purse out on the patio, where she had been alone for maybe a minute.

  A couple of days ago, another young woman with a similar look came to the door soliciting for some sad cause and I asked for ID. She showed me a xeroxed and bad looking ID and I said I’m sorry, but no, and didn’t let her in. She might have been fine, but I don’t know.

  A few weeks ago, a messy looking young man came to the door and asked for water. I said no, but before I got the door closed, Jim recognized him as one of the stonemasons working next door. I felt terrible and of course we gave him a LOT of water.

  It has been horribly hot here and it seems perfectly reasonable for someone to ask for water, especially when your wood door is open and they can see in through the screened metal gate. But you have to be careful.

More Serious Stuff

  A frail and elderly American  friend of mine recently opened her door to two men who said they wanted water.  She opened her metal gate, they came in, held a knife to her throat and tied her securely into a chair. They ransacked her house for nearly two hours and made off with family heirlooms, jewelry, cash, a computer, and other electronics. They had brought their own bags to pack things in and their own heavy tape to secure her to the chair.

  She was scared out of her tree, needless to say, and it took her two hours to get out of the chair after they left. When she got loose, she called the p0lice, went to the police station and filed a report. After a lot of talk, the forensics guys came to her house and dusted for prints. Just today, they matched one set of prints to a man who is wanted for a number of crimes including a homicide both here in Merida and in Cancun. It will be interesting to see how they pursue this investigation.

  In another case, a friend of mine was coming home late at night alone and as she unlocked her door, a pleasant looking couple who she had noticed down the block, took hold of her and held a gun to her body. They made her open the door and then give them all her cash, which she did, and they left. She did not report it.

  It is comparitively safe here, but shit does happen. Be careful.


In the home invasion robbery, mentioned above, the police arrested the main bad guy today. He is in jail!! When he was arrested, he had some of my friend’s stolen articles in his bag. Good job, Yucatan Judicial Police!!!!

American Fugitive Extradited from Merida

In early September, Mexican immigration deported a pleasant American man who had been living among us for some time. The Mexicans, cooperating with American law enforcement, advised the US when the man was on the airplane to Houston, where he was apprehended when he deplaned. He had embezzled over half a million dollars from the trust accounts of his elderly clients, been tried and found guilty, and disbarred as an attorney. On the day of his sentencing, he flew to Merida, where he lived a quiet life until recently.

About BG

Beryl Gorbman is a writer and private investigator who divides her time between Seattle WA and Merida Yucatan Mexico. She has published two works of fiction, 2012: Deadly Awakening, and Madrugada. They are both available on Amazon and other outlets. Also at Amate Books, and Casa Catherwood in Merida. You can read about them in various articles on this site.
This entry was posted in General Blog, Merida Expat Life. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Crime in Yucatan

  1. I am sorry to hear about your experience and your friend’s traumatic ordeal. I hope you are both okay. I have always thought the frequent claim that there is virtually no crime, or no violent crime in the Yucatan, was surely exaggerated. If people are well-informed I’m sure they will take appropriate precautions. So thanks for your story. I hope you don’t mind if I link it to my blog.

  2. BG says:

    Please go ahead and link. Please note today’s update – the police arrested the suspect and recovered some stolen items.

  3. millie says:

    the only people who claim there is no crime are the criminals

  4. Rainie says:

    Roger and I were also victims of the” need water crime”. She took my money, but otherwise didn’t harm us. A month ago I heard she, or perhaps another female member of the Need Some Water Gang was caught by police.

  5. Alinde says:

    I don’t live in Centro (as I suspect many of the victims do), but I would like to suggest, to anyone designing a house, that they consider a locked gate with space between the gate and the house. When I answer these calls for help, I can take water to people on the street, and not consider letting them in. And I’d like to add, I have seldom if ever seen my Mexican neighbors even answering the calls from such visitors.

    My present belief is that if one is generous in other ways (tipping, payment to workers and such), it is easier to ignore the riskier requests. The former owner of my house gave me some good advice to the effect that: “Remember, the workers are VERY poor, so don’t leave anything of value laying around when they are working.” She is a very kind and generous woman herself, so I considered it a good lesson.

    So far, I’ve had few problems. In the beginning, when I had to look at the cash register to see how much change I was to receive, I was short-changed rather often. But now, now that I can understand what is actually said to me, this seems to have stopped.

    And I never stop remembering–I was burgled almost annually in San Francisco! The finger-print guy even remembered me! Here, in over 10 years, not one such event!

  6. Christofer says:

    Hi Beryl, I realize this article is a little dated, but you are doing a great service letting people know about the various scams that take place.

    Those living in the less “gringo-ized” areas don’t experience this as often, but things do happen.

    Many people take the leap from “lowest crime in Mexico” to thinking “no crime” and that just is not true.

    There is an enormous divide between the rich and poor and actually, the poor and everyone else, because the poor are so badly off. When you live in a thatched palm roof house that you built with your own hands on land of questionable ownership, and the only belongings are a couple pairs of shorts and t-shirts, a hammock and maybe a piece of a barrel laid on three rocks that you cook over, EVERYTHING looks appealing to you.

    This is not to fault the character of the poor at all, but rather as a reminder that Americans are vastly more wealthy than even most Mexicans of the middle class. By far and large, the Yucatecan people are honest, friendly, kind and upstanding people. But temptation must come to mind from time to time.

    Still, all that said, property crime is the main crime committed. Even your elderly friend who was tied up was not harmed or treated brutally as could have been the case (all too often) in the USA. They stole her things, but she was alive to miss them.

    And, the final emphasis to add is this: The Yucatecan police are actually quite talented and honest. There have been many cases where they could have jailed a scapegoat, closed the case, and gone on about their business. Instead, just like in your friend’s case, they pursue the true criminals, not “the usual suspects.”

    That is one of the reasons for the low crime rate: the police actually arrest the real criminals.

    So, please, always report every crime. The friends who did not report the crime against them do everyone a disfavor. That might have been the break or the clue needed to catch the real, repeat culprits.

  7. Alinde says:

    I agree with you, Christofer–reporting the crimes probably helps. But there comes a “break even point”, meaning the victim’s pain vs. the gain for everyone. As someone who recently had her wallet stolen, I must say that it is NOT easy to report things to the Mexican police. I spent a total of perhaps 8 hours, stressful ones (due to my lack of familiarity, “fair-to-middlin’” Spanish, and some other factors), and I now categorize the experience as worse than hurricane Mitch. Even HARDER was dealing with the the USA bank! After three weeks, it is still not all sorted out, but at least I can write a bit about it. Not much, but….

    I did notice, too, that even the Mexicans who were at the police judicial agency–probably waiting as much time as I did, were patient. I had to work at being patient. Yet I learned something–maybe the wait is why so many Mexicans go to such agencies with someone else. (It’s easier, if one is chatting in the line.) And it would have been better for me, too, had I remembered to take a book.)

    I learned some other things, too, but they will have to wait. It’s still painful. There is a real hit to one’s self-esteem to realize that they’ve been distracted (or conned, seduced ) into taking their eye off their purse. So a word to everyone–to quote a friend–our childhood training still pertains; “Don’t talk to strangers.”

    But there were some plusses: a super cab driver I happened to hail twice while doing all the errands-sans-drivers license; a friend who reminded me, “we all make mistakes;” and the reminders to myself that many people have far greater problems. I even watched a flirtation , where the young man must have studied the eyes of Elvis Presley!

  8. BG says:

    Alinde, please don’t blame yourself for being normal and trusting. You did not commit a crime here – someone else did. This is not your fault. You did not invite the crime. You are the victim. If you made a mistake, as you say, I’m sure it’s one that anyone else would have made.
    It’s wonderful though, that you can walk away with a sense of humor and preserve your ability to see the good in people around you.

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