Checking on a Ferromex cargo train.

Train robberies and rail track theft were up 74% last year

High demand for the goods moved by rail and impunity blamed for higher numbers

Train and track robberies increased 74% in 2021 to over 5,000 incidents, according to data from the Rail Transport Regulatory Agency (ARTF).

There were 2,570 train robberies last year and 2,548 incidents of track theft, the ARTF said in a rail security report.

Jalisco recorded the highest number of freight robberies with 381 cases, an increase of 11% compared to 2020. Sonora ranked second with 273, a 4% annual spike, followed by Guanajuato, where robberies surged 54% to 264. Rounding out the top five were Coahuila and Sinaloa with 245 and 136 robberies, respectively.

Incidents of train vandalism – a crime sometimes committed by thieves to aid their heist – were also up last year, increasing 43% to 10,142.

Mexico’s railway routes.

Carlos Barreda Westphal, a representative of wood products manufacturer Stella-Jones, told the newspaper Reforma that the increase in robberies is concerning given the impact the crime has on the economy. The government’s efforts to keep the prices of basic food items in check is made more difficult because those products are transported by rail, he said.

“Let’s not forget that the products stolen from trains find a ready outlet on the black market,” Barreda added.

He said that a shortage of and high demand for goods primarily moved by rail – among which are grains, auto parts, domestic appliances and minerals – as well as authorities’ failure to combat crime along Mexico’s rail network, appeared to be the main reasons behind the increase in robberies.

“Robbery of a train has been [classified as] a serious crime that warrants preventative prison for a couple of years, but if the authorities don’t investigate and arrest criminals [the classification] is useless,” Barreda said.

“Calculating the losses this causes companies is difficult,” he said, adding that track theft affects the operating costs of railways.

“The more pieces of the track they steal, the more expensive it is to operate because everything has to be replaced,” Barrera said.

With reports from Reforma 

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