HomeNewsAre Cartels Connected to Booming Truck Theft in Mexico?
NEWS

Are Cartels Connected to Booming Truck Theft in Mexico?

MEXICO / 12 APR 2021 BY KATYA BLESZYNSKA EN

Tens of thousands of trucks on Mexico’s highways are being hijacked for their cargo each year, with criminal gangs becoming more daring, sophisticated and violent in carrying out these assaults.

Around 36 trucks are hijacked or stolen every day in Mexico, according to the Mexican news outlet Eje Central. And such attacks have become better coordinated and planned in recent years, Borderland Beat reported in late March.

Highway robberies, commonly committed by gangs of 6 to 8 gunmen, have dedicated surveillance teams monitoring truck movements. Armed assailants will use multiple cars to block the truck’s path, and will either unhook its cargo trailer and reattach it onto another vehicle, transfer the goods into their own truck, or steal the whole vehicle. Drivers are taken hostage to delay police response and are sometimes killed.

Many cargo businesses have resorted to sending costly security escorts to accompany drivers. These guards, however, are often outnumbered and outgunned. Devices have also been used to jam the trucks’ navigation systems to stop them from being tracked. In some cases, gangs use underground scrapping facilities to quickly dismantle stolen trucks.

SEE ALSO: Cargo Hijacking Leads to Major Losses in Latin America

Criminals target vehicles carrying high-value and high-demand products. The food and beverage sector makes up a third of the total items stolen, especially grains such as corn, wheat and soy which are considered “attractive basic consumables,” reported El Universal, citing Mexico’s Confederation of Industrial Chambers (Confederación de Cámaras Industriales de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos – CONCAMIN), a trade association.

Mexico’s National Association of Vehicle Tracking and Protection Companies (Asociación Nacional de Empresas de Rastreo y Protección Vehicular – ANERPV) reported a small and steady uptick in cargo theft despite supply chain disruptions and a reduced volume of goods being transported due to COVID-19.

In fact, the pandemic has created new high-value targets. At the height of Mexico’s medical oxygen shortage in January, two armed men hijacked a truck in order to steal oxygen canisters being transported to a nearby plant.

InSight Crime Analysis

Borderland Beat‘s report stated that Mexico’s major cartels are involved in the massive number of highway robberies, giving two main reasons for the assertion.

First, around 75 percent of hijackings occur on ten highways, located predominately in the central states of Guanajuato, Puebla, Querétaro, the State of Mexico and Jalisco.

Specifically, federal highway 150D, which connects Mexico City to the country’s main eastern seaport in Veracruz, represents nearly a fifth of cargo thefts reported.

SEE ALSO: Fragmentation: The Violent Tailspin of Mexico’s Dominant Cartels

Borderland Beat asserted that these routes are critical for drug trafficking, making it unlikely that minor groups would be able to operate along these highways without the support of cartels.

Secondly, the report states that cartel involvement in cargo theft is consistent with the current, diversified state of cartel operations in Mexico.

These larger groups may control and fund smaller gangs carrying out the attacks, which explains the apparent sophistication of their operations, according to Borderland Beat.

However, Mexico’s hyperviolent and fractured criminal landscape also foments this class of crimes, with smaller but heavily armed groups taking them on independently in some cases. Truck robberies along Mexican interstates present a crime of opportunity with a low barrier to entry. While larger criminal groups may claim the lion’s share of these robberies in states under their control, it would be difficult for a single organization to police an entire highway, especially in states such as Guanajuato or Veracruz that are being contested by a number of rival groups.

The Mexican government’s response has been to impose penalties of 6 to12 years to those caught hijacking trucks, regardless of the amount stolen, but this does not appear to have deterred these hijackings to date.

Compartir icon icon icon

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Related Content

KIDNAPPING / 14 JUN 2011

Soldiers rescued seven kidnap victims who were being driven in a van through the streets of Monterrey, north Mexico.

MEXICO / 9 MAY 2011

Some 20,000 people staged a protest in Mexico City on Sunday to call for an end to the drug violence…

MEXICO / 1 JUN 2011

Authorities arrested 25 people for alleged links to the Zetas drug trafficking organization in Hidalgo, central Mexico, including 10 municipal…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – Ten Years of Investigating Organized Crime in the Americas

FEATURED / 2 NOV 2020

In early 2009, Steven Dudley was in Medellín, Colombia. His assignment: speak to a jailed paramilitary leader in the Itagui prison, just south of the city. Following his interview inside…