Guadalajara is a wonderful city for both travelers and expats alike. There is a thriving economy, a cultured population, great restaurants, and lots of things to do. The metropolitan region has a population of more than 5 million residents which is similar to Phoenix or Atlanta. There are a number of security issues that surprise first time visitors whether they are from Mexico or internationally.
Cell phone theft is a problem for some of the fun neighborhoods but it is easy to avert. Every few months a visitor complains on the expat forums about a cell phone being taken right out of their hands on a busy city street. Others chime in about their experience losing a cell phone in the same manner.
The local name for the thieves is “motoladrones” because they use motorcycles and mopeds to commit their crimes. A team of two crooks rides a motorcycle up and down a busy street like Av Chapultepec. Sometimes they get onto the sidewalk or into a plaza. They are looking for people distracted on their phones in a busy public space.
Once the thieves identify a target they rev up the engine and charge towards them like a bull on parade. The motorcycle comes within inches of the startled pedestrian and the passenger riding on the back of the motorcycle rips the phone right out of their hands.
The motoladrones take advantage of the element of surprise and a vehicle that moves faster than a person can run. Once they have the cell phone in hand they make a couple of evasive maneuvers down a well-practiced escape route with the agility of a motocross racer.
Within minutes they are trying to hack into the phone to steal whatever they can. Sometimes they pretend to be the victim asking family for money. Sometimes they try to convince someone the victim has been kidnapped in what is known as a virtual kidnapping.
They will change as many passwords as possible in an attempt to buy some time for the plethora of scams that can be run.
It is bad. Think about all the personal information you have stored on your cell phone. You do not want an unlocked cell phone falling into the wrong hands.
The good thing is that once you are aware of the problem it has an easy remedy. Don’t get distracted on your phone on a public street. The easiest targets are distractedly walking on the sidewalk next to a lane of traffic. The motoladrones don’t need to get on the sidewalk to take the phone out of someone’s hands.
Always keep an eye out for motorcycles on the sidewalk, especially two people on a motorcycle on the sidewalk.
Don’t use your phone where someone can easily surprise you and quickly get away. Some people prefer not to use an expensive cell phone on a busy street like Avenida Chapultepec.
The local police are constantly playing a game of cat and mouse to thwart the problem but as they apply pressure to one neighborhood the thieves move to another area. The Colonia Americana is well known for motoladrones but Chapalita, Providencia, and Downtown are all known to suffer from the problem.
The areas where motoladrones operate are some of the coolest and most enjoyable parts of the city. If you have an expensive phone, keep it in your pocket. Don’t get distracted on that thousand-dollar computer where a lot of people can see you.
Guadalajara is a great town. There are a lot of fun things to do. With a little research, you can identify some common risks and how to easily avoid them. By keeping the cell phone in your pocket in public spaces you can keep it safe and out of the hands of the bad guys.