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A gentle ocean breeze caused my curtains to dance back and forth while I listened to the crashing waves in the distance — it was settled, I would leave my balcony door open while I slept. I was in my hotel room in La Paz, which is the capital city of Baja California Sur, which is in Mexico. Yes, Mexico — the country that has been the unfair recipient of countless raised eyebrows and postponed trips — which also contains many destinations that are not only beautiful, but incredibly safe, such as La Paz.
In order to counter misconceptions about visitor safety, the destination, in conjunction with its recently formed tourism board and tourism campaign, La Paz: City of Peace and Abundance on the Sea of Cortez, has launched a rigorous effort to raise awareness of the actual security situation in the sleepy, beachfront city. And the findings — that La Paz is one of the safest cities in North America — should help visitors to the Baja California Sur capital city rest assured.
“The awareness campaign ensures that La Paz — whose name literally means ‘peace’ in Spanish — is recognized as one of the world’s safest and securest cities,” said Agustin Olachea, president of the La Paz Tourism Board and spokesperson of the La Paz Developers Tourism Council.
According to statistics compiled by the Mexican government’s official database from December 2006 through the end of 2010, La Paz has not been touched by drug-related violence. Indeed, if La Paz, with its population of 220,000, was ranked among California cities with populations between 100,000 and 500,000, it would reign as the third-safest in murder and manslaughter in 2009, which is the latest year available for an accurately averaged comparison.
“The statistics prove what those who live in La Paz know instinctively — that this is a place where anyone of any gender or age can walk safely along the beautiful Malecon (boardwalk) or anywhere else in the city,” said Olachea. “They encounter nothing but friendly citizens mixing happily with people from North America and other parts of Mexico.”
From 2006 to 2009, there were zero, one or two homicides in La Paz and in 2010, the city saw an increase to five homicides, which the city deemed anomalistic. La Paz’s 1.0 murder/manslaughters for a population of 220,000 gives it a ratio of 0.45 per 100,000 populace, which puts it ahead of many wealthy California communities, such as Sunnyvale (0.71), Irvine (1.38) and Temecula (0.95). Only Murrieta, in Riverside County, Calif., and Mission Viejo, in Orange County, Calif., fared better than La Paz, with zero murder/manslaughter for populations of 101,487 and 100,725, respectively.
The awareness campaign also states that, according to figures reported in the Los Angeles Times, non-murder crime rates for La Paz are just a fraction of those found in the U.S. Statements made by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reiterate that La Paz experiences only a fraction of the robbery, rape, assault and murder found in American cities.