Dangers & Annoyances
The Zona Rosa area on the west side of the Macroplaza, and Barrio Antiguo on the east, are both largely considered safe by day and night, but as in many big cities, it's advisable to avoid walking alone after dark and to stick to the main roads. Across the Río Santa Catarina, the crime-plagued barrio of Colonia Independencia is still affected by narco gangs and should not be entered day or night.
Reclaiming the Streets
Monterrey has long been known as one of Mexico’s most prosperous and business-friendly cities, and it largely avoided the worst narco-troubles during the early part of the country’s drug wars. But Mexico’s woes caught up with Monterrey in 2011 and 2012, when several high-profile battles between members of the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas killed dozens (mostly gang members) and left locals shocked and terrified.
Governor Rodrigo Medina responded by purging local police forces, which were deemed to be deeply infiltrated by the cartels; over 4000 officers were fired or even jailed. A new state police force, the Fuerza Civil (civil force), was formed, with officers being paid relatively high salaries and given secure compounds to live in. Around the same time, Mexico’s newly elected president dialed back federal interventions, and violence subsided in the northeast and throughout Mexico beginning in 2013.
There was an uptick in overall violence in the country during 2016 and 2017, though less noticeably in the northeast, and the streets of Monterrey and elsewhere are returning to normal. (Extortion and kidnapping remain an issue, mostly targeting wealthy business people, both Mexican and foreign.) Tourists were rarely caught in the middle, even in the bad years, and the core areas, like the Macroplaza and the Barrio Antiguo, are safe and pleasant, and well worth visiting.