Train robberies were up almost 33% in the first three months of 2019 compared to the same period of 2018, according to the most recent report by the Rail Transport Regulatory Agency.
There were 1,057 incidents of theft and 2,637 incidents of vandalism, an increase of about 21% compared to the previous year.
There were 613 incidents in which cargo was stolen from trains, and 72 where rolling stock itself was stolen. Grains, seeds, automotive parts and construction materials are among the most popular goods stolen.
There were also 371 thefts of sections of rail or signage.
The highest numbers of thefts occurred in the states of Sonora, Tlaxcala and Puebla.
Growth in railway theft began in the first quarter of 2018 but saw a significant decline in the last quarter of the year.
In 2018, the Federal Police launched an operation against a rail theft gang led by Roberto de los Santos de Jesús, also known as “El Bukanans.” Santos allegedly leads Sangre Nueva Zeta, a group that broke off from the Zetas cartel, and is believed responsible for much of the rail theft and fuel theft around the Puebla-Veracruz border.
The most recent train robbery took place on Sunday morning when a train was robbed in the Puebla municipality of Cañada Morelos, near the Veracruz border. The thieves put up barriers to force the train to stop, and then caused mechanical damage to the train to prevent it from moving.
The private security and police officers who were escorting the train were outnumbered by thieves and could only stand by and watch as the thieves loaded the cargo off the train and on to pickup trucks.