MEXICO CITY (AP) - Freight train robbers in Mexico are increasingly blocking tracks or loosening rails to stop trains and steal the contents, causing increasing danger.
The federal rail agency said Monday the number of cargo thefts increased from 532 in the last quarter of 2017 to 561 in the first quarter of 2018. While that's only a 5 percent increase, thieves are using more dangerous ways to stop the trains.
In the past they often triggered the brakes on freight cars or uncoupled them. But in the first quarter, thieves blocked tracks with rocks or vehicles over 250 times, a 42 percent increase over the fourth quarter.
And they loosened or stole rail clips or other pieces of track 222 times, almost triple the fourth quarter total.
That has led to train derailments in some cases. The thieves target bulk goods like grain and cement, as well as appliances, auto parts and other consumer goods.
The problem is worst in the central state of Puebla, just east of Mexico City, where 139 train robberies were reported in the first quarter. Puebla also leads the country in the number of illegal taps drilled into government pipelines to steal fuel.
Both types of crime have become accepted by some communities in Puebla; entire neighborhoods, including women and children, sometimes participate in blocking trains, and carrying off stolen goods.