The Mexican States of Quintana Roo and neighboring Yucatan are Los Zeta territory. Allegedly, many of the hefe’s live in Playa del Carmen and Cancun up north and they are credited with doing a good job of keeping the peace. Although the southern half of Quintana Roo (per the graphs below) falls into "disputed" territory between rival gangs, the area is not part of the increasingly brazen and vicious drug-related crime of areas such as the northern (US-Mexico) border.
Mexico is much like the US – rule of law and strong judicial (yeah, I know…) but compared to say, Belize to the south, it’s a breath of fresh air. Local, State, and Federal police forces are very visible and they don’t screw around at the scene. Chetumal, as a port, also has marine police, coast guard, and, due to drug trade, a USDEA presence. It’s pretty quiet absent the usual crime problems of any large city. It does appear however to be a convenient drop off/sales point for those in Belize who thieve outboard engines. Also providing some separation, the legal border crossing from Belize to Mexico is 12 kilometers west of Chetumal and is heavily guarded on the Mexican side so Chetumal is not your typical border town.
If you look at Quintana Roo's ocean coast line (as opposed to the bay), it’s wilderness for the most part until you get far north though that is slowly changing with Mahahual and Xcalak growing quickly. Since we're boaters, the opportunity of being in the wrong place at the wrong time even off-shore at Chinchorro Banks is fairly high so we avoid it and recommend anyone in the area without expert local knowledge stick to reputable tour groups.
The Sinaloa Cartel, if not others as well, have been finding it a bit more difficult to move drugs through Mexico and are allegedly moving back to the Caribbean as a preferred route, especially the Dominican Republic. This further decreases the pressure on the area immediately surrounding Chetumal.