AUSTIN (KXAN) - With spring break just a little more than a week away, state officials have already begun warning travelers to avoid Mexico because of the ongoing violence.
Texas Department of Public Safety officials are reminding boaters to stay on the United States side of Falcon Lake, which has been the scene of several robberies and an American's murder.
DPS officials said cartel activity remains high in that area.
"While drug cartel violence is most severe in northern Mexico, it is prominent in other parts of the country as well," said DPS Director Steven C. McCraw. "Various crime problems also exist in many popular resort areas, such as Acapulco and Cancun, and crime against U.S. citizens often go unpunished."
American deaths tied to the violence in Mexico this year
- January: Texas missionary shot in the head when she and her husband ran an illegal road block in Nuevo Leon
- Feb. 5: Two El Paso teens were gunned down in Ciudad Juarez
- Feb. 15: ICE agent was killed and another was injured in a suspected ambush near San Luis Potosi
In addition to these deaths, preliminary figures show as many as 65 Americans were killed in Mexico in 2010.
DPS officials said kidnapping, sexual assault, robbery and carjacking also are threats in parts of Mexico, where the suspects have not been prosecuted in many of the cases.
Meanwhile, more than 30,000 Mexican citizens have died in drug-related violence since 2006. And the violence shows no signs of letting up.
"Drug violence has not discriminated; innocent bystanders and people who may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time are among the casualties," said McCraw. "Underestimating the violence in Mexico would be a mistake for parents and students. Our safety message is simple: Avoid traveling to Mexico during spring break and stay alive."
DPS officials said they know many travel to Mexico without any issues but said that the risks can't be ignored.
Meanwhile, U.S. citizens living or traveling in Mexico are urged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through a website.
"I think for people like high schoolers and college kids all they hear is the craziness going on in Mexico and its enough to scare them away," said UT Student Liza Yates.
"A lot of people are staying home staying in the United States where its safer," said Above & Beyond Travel Owner Bill Wodarski.
Wodarski says Spring Break bookings to Mexico have dropped significantly this year.
"You don't want to tempt fate, you want to stay out of an area that may have problems," said Wodarski.
But many travel agents, including Wodarski, say the cities of Cancun, Cozumel and Playa Del Carmen are still safe.
"They're very protective, they're very careful with tourism," said Tramex Travel President Juan Portillo.
Portillo does not believe the Texas DPS should issue a blanket warning against travel to all of Mexico.
"It absolutely upsets me to no end," said Portillo.
Portillo says many resorts are in secure compounds and id's are required to get in and out. That along with personal responsibility, he said, makes travel to some parts of Mexico safe.
"You don't go into the barrio areas or looking for trouble it's not any more dangerous than South Padre or somewhere else," said Portillo.
Some students who've been recently agree.
"I think it depends on where you go. When I went last year we went to a resort that was closed off completely so if you didn't go out of the resort you were completely safe, completely fine," said UT student Ethan Kendro.
Travel agents said many Spring Breakers are going to Florida, California and of course South Padre Island instead of Mexico.
We called the South Padre Island Convention and Visitors Bureau Tuesday and were told they've seen a noticeable increase in advanced bookings and this week more than half of the properties on the island are more than 70 percent booked.
A good sign for them, considering the busiest time is still a couple weeks away.
More than 100 trees covered in lights now shine bright throughout Zilker Park. The Trail of Lights is open for another season.
A 10-year-old was killed while standing outside of a vehicle which lost control during the icy conditions, DPS said.
Travis County non-profit Center for Child Protection will benefit next March from an all day fundraiser at the Circuit of the Americas that will see plenty of donors racing on the track.
Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg heads to court this week as a defendant in a civil trial that could oust her from office.
Santa visited Austin early on Sunday, joining hundreds of motorcyclists for their annual Toy Run.
Late Saturday night into early Sunday morning, a light band of freezing drizzle traversed the I-35 corridor eastward. With sub-freezing temperatures, even the light precipitation created major problems.