New Mexico is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States, especially for fellow Americans from different states. In 2021, the state saw a record nearly 40 million domestic visitors.
Visitors to New Mexico certainly have something to see. From the otherworldly desert landscapes of national parks such as White Sands to the historic international charm of towns such as Santa Fe, New Mexico has something for everyone.
Plus, check out the quirky culture of this state that inspired artists such as Georgia O’Keefe and its fabulous Mexican fusion cuisine.
Before traveling anywhere, you probably want to know what’s the truth behind the gorgeous photos on the tourism board website. Is New Mexico as beautiful and heavenly on the ground as it is in photos?
Don’t worry — our travel experts have done the hard work for you. Read on to learn all the information you need to have a great time in New Mexico. Let use be your guide!
Is New Mexico Safe to Visit?
Yes, New Mexico is safe to visit, and millions of visitors arrive every year without having any trouble. The reason why some people hesitate before coming to New Mexico is that the crime rate is fairly high compared to other states.
That being said, most crime is concentrated in areas that tourists don’t visit. New Mexico does have one of the highest crime rates in the United States.
In 2022, New Mexico had the second-highest violent crime rate in the United States, at 7.8 incidents per 100,000 people. Property crime rates in New Mexico are also very high.
Common crimes people worry about when visiting New Mexico include:
- Natural disasters
- Dangerous wildlife such as scorpions
The crime rate seems dangerous, but it helps to look at context. The crime rate is calculated per 100,000 people. New Mexico is one of the most sparsely populated states in the United States.
It has a little over 2 million people for a land area that is the 5th-largest in the country. That means that whenever a crime is committed, it raises the rate per 100,000 people significantly. Plus, crime is concentrated in a few areas of New Mexico.
Some cities are more dangerous than others, and some neighborhoods within big cities such as Albuquerque have high crime rates as well. These areas drive up the crime rate for the whole state.
Most crime in New Mexico affects locals, not tourists, who rarely wind up in these areas where crime is concentrated. Another factor to keep in mind is that different states have different definitions of violent crimes that might affect their rankings.
For example, New Mexico is technically the state with the highest kidnapping rate in the country, but that’s because it has a broader definition of kidnapping than most other states which ends up including many situations of domestic violence.
People fixate often on the crime rate in New Mexico but ignore the biggest threat to visitor safety — nature. Many tourists flock to New Mexico to explore the beautiful wilderness, including deserts and mountains.
However, the extreme heat and high elevation, which people often forget to factor into their travel plans, causes tourists to become ill with acute mountain sickness or dehydration.
Nature in New Mexico is the real deal, with all the attending dangers. Many hikers get in trouble for not planning out their route properly regarding their skill levels or packing enough water.
The desert has dangerous wildlife such as rattlesnakes. Plus, parts of New Mexico are prone to natural disasters such as flash floods.
Although the crime rate in New Mexico seems alarming, after a closer look, you shouldn’t be too worried. Make sure you take basic precautions, especially on your hikes, and you should be fine.
Crime in New Mexico
Most out-of-towners who hesitate before visiting New Mexico are primarily worried about the high crime rate. Let’s unpack the crime rate further and hopefully give you some peace of mind.
The violent crime rate in New Mexico is fairly high, there is no beating around the bush on that. According to Neighborhood Scout, the incidence rate in 2022 was 7.88 per 100,000 people.
The most prevalent violent crime was assault, which makes up 79% of the total violent crime reported in New Mexico. Armed robbery makes up 11% of the crime rate, while rape is 8% of the violent crime rate.
Homicides are around the national average and only make up about 1% of the total crimes committed. Property crimes are also common in the state. The property crime rate is 30.93 incidents per 100,000 people, which is higher than the national median of 19 incidents per 100,000 people.
New Mexico residents have a 1 in 32 chance of being the victim of a property crime such as a burglary, theft, or motor vehicle theft. That being said, crime rates in New Mexico differ widely from location to location.
A city such as Deming has a crime rate of 59 per 100,000 people, while Corrales has a crime rate of 1.4 per 100,000 people. As long as you do your research and use your common sense while traveling, you should be fine when visiting New Mexico.
While theft is not as prevalent as it used to be, petty theft such as pickpocketing is prevalent in popular tourist destinations such as Santa Fe. Petty crimes of opportunity such as bag snatching take advantage of distracted people to make a quick buck.
Forums pinpoint popular tourist destinations in New Mexico such as Santa Fe, Taos, and Albuquerque as the places with the highest risk of pickpocketing.
Pickpockets take advantage of crowds to commit their crimes. Be careful when you are taking public transportation, taking out your phone to take pictures at attractions, or on crowded streets. Bag snatching is also becoming more common in New Mexico.
Make sure that you never leave your valuables unattended. This includes hotel lobbies and restaurants. You may feel safer in these buildings, but that is just an illusion.
Anyone can wander into these areas as they are open to the public and take advantage of your bag hanging off the back of the chair or wallet left on the counter. Luckily, these crimes are easy enough to defend yourself against.
All you have to do is prevent thieves from getting access to your possessions. Maintain a healthy balance between soaking in the sights and staying aware of your surroundings. Ignore people that try to distract you on the streets, they might be working with an accomplice who will pick your pocket.
Keep your valuables in a secure place such as a travel purse, not your back pocket or a sagging tote. Scams happen in New Mexico, but they usually target locals such as scam calls trying to solicit personal information.
You might also see the common tourist trap travel scams such as people trying to distract you to rob you or someone playing the shell game. Just mind your own business and you shouldn’t have much trouble.
Visitors to New Mexico often worry about violent crime because the state does have one of the worst violent crime rates in the nation. Of these, the most common is assault, making up 79% of the total violent crime rate in New Mexico.
Violent crimes in New Mexico are far more likely to occur than elsewhere. They make up 21% of the total crime rate, while for the national crime rate the violent crime percentage is closer to 15%.
These are highly reassuring statistics but learning a bit about how assault occurs in New Mexico might make you feel better. Keep in mind that violent crime in New Mexico is highly concentrated geographically.
Certain counties have high violent crime rates, while in others crime is nonexistent. Counties that contain popular New Mexico tourist attractions such as Santa Fe and Taos have low to moderate levels of crime.
Nationwide, most assault cases involve situations where the victims and offender knew each other or were at least from the same area.
Criminals in New Mexico usually target locals for their crimes, not visitors. While crime is a problem for New Mexico residents, it shouldn’t affect you as a tourist that much. One form of assault to keep in mind as a female traveler is sexual assault.
The rate of sexual assault is slightly higher in New Mexico than in the nation.
While most incidents of rape occur when the victim knew the perpetrator, it’s still worth taking a few precautions to protect yourself. Be careful when walking alone at night and take taxis if possible. Never leave your drink unattended in bars or clubs.
Avoiding Bad Areas
Since the crime rate in New Mexico varies so drastically between different counties, cities, and even neighborhoods, learning to avoid bad areas is key to ensuring you have a safe trip.
The good news is that most cities with the highest crime rate in New Mexico are poorer areas that are off the radar for most tourists. These include poorer areas such as Deming, San Rafael, and Belen.
If you’re going UFO-hunting, be careful of what you find on the ground as Roswell has one of the highest crime rates in the state. Albuquerque, the capital, has a reputation as one of the country’s most dangerous cities.
It contains nearly 50% of property crime and about 42% of the violent crime in the state, compared to only 27% of the population. Even within Albuquerque, there’s a big difference from neighborhood to neighborhood.
The areas with the highest crime are residential areas such as San Jose and Quigley Park, which tourists wouldn’t go to anyway.
However, if you’re planning to drive Route 66, be careful as that takes you through the International District, a southeastern neighborhood with a high rate of car theft. If you’re unsure, ask the concierge at the hotel where you’re staying for advice on where to go.
Things to Consider
Here are a few things to keep in mind when you travel to New Mexico:
- The climate here is dryer than in most other places in the United States. Make sure you have plenty of water when you go exploring.
- If you’re going hiking, take extra supplies with you in case you get stuck in the wilderness.
- Basic precautions can help you stay safe. Always lock your car and hotel doors.
- Driving in New Mexico is not the safest, as there are high incidents of road rage and drunk driving — even among taxi drivers. If you’re going to be driving here, brush up on your defensive driving skills and don’t escalate incidents as rates of gun ownership are high.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some other questions you might want to know about New Mexico:
What is the safest area in New Mexico?
The safest city in New Mexico is Los Alamos, which has a very low crime rate. It has plenty of sites to visit, such as the Los Alamos History Museum and Bradbury Science Museum dedicated to the development of the atomic bomb, which happened locally.
Is Albuquerque safe for tourists?
Albuquerque is not the most safe for tourists, as it has very high crime rates. Although certain neighborhoods are more dangerous than others, crime happens almost everywhere in the city. That being said, many tourists visit every year anyway.
Is New Mexico worth visiting?
New Mexico is absolutely worth visiting and you shouldn’t let worrying about the crime rate deter you. The state has fabulous nature, historical sites dating back to prehistoric times, and a multicultural atmosphere that reflects in the food scene.
Is Santa Fe safer than Albuquerque?
Yes, Santa Fe is safer than Albuquerque. Not only does it have a lower overall crime rate, but the type of crime that happens in the city rarely affects tourists.
What is the war zone in Albuquerque?
The “war zone” in Albuquerque is not an actual war zone. It is a poor neighborhood with a very high crime rate that is so dangerous locals dubbed it the war zone. It is now called the International District in official city materials and stretches along Route 66 in the southeast of the city.
So, Is New Mexico Safe to Visit?
Many visitors hesitate before visiting New Mexico due to the higher-than-average crime rate. However, most visitors aren’t affected by the crime rate at all, and taking some basic precautions will help you have the safest trip possible. Happy travels!