Cargo theft has been a rising problem in the United States, but if you think we've got it bad, you should try trucking in Mexico.
A recent report in The Houston Chronicle
takes a look at the problem south of the border, where "robberies of merchandise have grown almost as common as gaping potholes." Organized bands of thieves steal hundreds of millions of dollars worth of goods each year, like the costly truckloads of California almonds and Norwegian cod that Mexico City businessman Adolfo Juarez lost to bandits.
Juarez has since begun hiring security guards to escort trucks carrying his goods from the Veracruz coast and the Texas border to their final destination in the stores of the Mexican capital. He also now only uses trucking companies that use global positioning system technology. He hasn't lost a load in more than three years.
An average of 800 trucks are reported hijacked in Mexico every year at a loss of $253 million. Yet even more robberies go unreported. Some rural areas are administering their own justice, hanging hijackers.
Most cargo thefts happen on the roads leading into Mexico City. Meat, wine, coffee, canned goods, electronics and clothing are some of the most attractive targets. Hijackers are well-organized and well-armed, with huge distribution networks to fence the stolen goods.
Unlike U.S. cargo theft, in which hijackings of drivers are relatively rare, Mexican truckers are far more likely to face danger from cargo bandits. Javier Flores, a 23-year-old Mexican trucker, had been driving only 18 months when he and his brother's two-truck convoy was attacked as they fixed a flat. A car pulled up and four men with guns got out, threatening the drivers. The bandits quickly disappeared with the trucks.
Mexican truck hijackings appear to be on the rise, up 15% early last year from a year previously.
The Public Safety Ministry in Mexico City even created a permanent force of motorcycle patrols to guard the main trucking routes. However, some people believe that will do little good, suspecting corrupt law enforcement officials to be in on the cargo theft system to begin with.