Drug violence impacting security for businesses in Mexico

Security experts discuss how CSOs can mitigate risks in the country

"If you don't have prearranged transportation, you are just causing problems. I think that's probably what gets most of the executives and other travelers in trouble, thinking it won't happen to them," he said. "A lot of people think that Mexico is still the Cancun and Cozumel's of the world."

Experts say that it is also important for security directors not to over focus on a particular issue because there are so many other risks that their organizations may be susceptible to.

"In Mexico, it's real easy to take your eye off one ball when another is bouncing around more," Logan said. "When CSOs are reading this news about shootouts and so on, that really takes their attention away from what I think are more critical concerns."

According to Johnson, having situational awareness is a big key to remaining safe in Mexico. In Mexico City, for example, Johnson said there has been a big issue with express kidnapping, which involves people being abducted for small ransoms or forced to withdraw money from ATMs. In many of these cases, Johnson says the victims are targeted because they are staying if five-star hotels, wearing suits or seen paying a large tab.

While the thought of using armored cars and armed guards may be appealing to help protect executives, experts say that such moves only attract unwanted attention. Armed guards would also be overmatched in terms of the firepower that the cartels have at their disposal.

This is also a reason that truck drivers in Mexico are taught not to fight back, if their rigs are hijacked.

As SIW reported earlier this year, Cargo crime remains a huge problem in the country. According to Logan, cargo theft is just one of between 20 and 22 different criminal activities that the cartels have in their "financial portfolios." In fact, some analysts agree that drug revenues only make up about 50 percent of the cartels' annual income.

Learn more about cargo crime in Mexico
Cargo crime on the rise in Mexico

Rigo Garcia, general manager of logistics security solutions provider FreightWatch Mexico, says the aforementioned narco blockades have really presented a big problem for shippers in the country, preventing truckers from getting cargo to their destinations. Garcia says that FreightWatch is using social media and other sources to help get their clients' shipments safely and securely around these roadblocks.

Garcia says that as the U.S. and Mexican governments have stepped up their efforts to prevent the free flow of drugs across the border, the cartels have increased their activity in other criminal endeavors, with cargo theft and contamination being one of their primary operations.

"The cartels are having so many setbacks and they need to collect money, their armored vehicles are getting shot up by the military and they need to buy that stuff," Garcia said. "They have plenty of money, but they want to expand into other regions where they can make more money and keep their criminals heavily occupied."

Garcia added that the recession has also played a role in the increase in violence and cargo crime in Mexico. As job opportunities have dried up, many people have turned to crime as a way to support themselves.

Currently, Garcia says FreightWatch is advising companies in Mexico to only move their shipments in the daytime and avoid night travel if possible in the northern part of the country. Oftentimes, Mexican authorities are tied up with other crimes at night and in some instances, they will not even respond if called upon for help at night out of fear of the cartels. Garcia said that they are also placing more covert tracking devices on shipments.

"It's ever changing," Garcia said with regards to the threats that companies face in Mexico. "What's going on today in one part of Mexico will not be the same in six months. It could still be there, it could be worse or less (of a problem) or it could be a different problem. The cartel violence in Mexico will only get worse, but more importantly, the danger will shift from one area to another."