Is Cancun Safe? 5 Bodies Found in Vehicle Amid Growing Violence in Mexican Beach Town

Police were investigating after five bodies were found Wednesday morning stuffed into an abandoned automobile in the Mexican resort town of Cancun. The fresh violence comes amid growing debate over whether the popular tourism site might be becoming too dangerous for travelers.

Some of the bodies were in the truck of the Mazda vehicle, while others were inside. The vehicle was parked outside a gym near government offices, according to local media reports.

An anonymous witness alerted authorities to the bodies by making a call to an emergency phone line. The vehicle was taken to the local coroner's office with the bodies.

Cancun, once heralded as a safe destination for Europeans, Mexicans and Americans alike, has increasingly faced security threats and drug-related killings in recent months. Earlier this week, three local police officers were arrested in the disappearance of four Colombians from the region. The week before, gunmen on water scooters shot at a vendor on a beach near tourist-filled hotels. Nobody was injured, the Associated Press reported.

The local attorney general's office said this week it would increase security at its offices. Visitors to the office will now be searched and must pass through a metal detector, Latin American Herald Tribune in Venezuela reported.

Questions about whether Cancun remains a viable destination first made international headlines earlier this month after 14 people were killed in the area within 36 hours.

The U.S. State Department issued a warning in March advising travelers that many areas of Mexico face high crime threats, including kidnapping and robbery. "The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in many areas of Mexico as U.S. government employees are prohibited from travel to these areas," the warning said.

In Quintana Roo state, which includes Cancun, the State Department warns visitors to exercise caution because of an increase in homicides in 2017 compared with 2016 as a result of turf battles between organized crime groups. The warning noted, "Shooting incidents injuring or killing bystanders have occurred."

A tourist holds his cap that reads “Invite me a drink” on a beach in Cancun, Mexico, on October 12, 2015. The U.S. State Department issued a travel warning in March advising travelers that many areas of Mexico face high crime threats, including kidnapping and robbery. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

Roughly 5.8 million international visitors traveled to Cancun in 2016. About half of them arrived from the U.S.

The consul general of Mexico in Austin, Carlos Gonzalez Gutierrez, has said American travelers should be alert while in Cancun. In all, there were about 133 murders in Quintana Roo during the first half of 2017, more than double the recorded killings from 2016.

"Tourism is an extremely important industry for us. It has increased at approximately 10 percent per year for the last four to five years and that means that for Mexico and for the Mexican government it's extremely important to exercise all cautionary measures," Gonzalez Gutierrez told Dallas News earlier this month.