The theft of copper cables from the Metro, CFE or Telmex is not new and is concentrated in the eastern part of the country, but the crime has increased in recent years within the framework of the transition to electromobility and renewable energies that demand this metal red conductor of electricity, show official data.
Mexico City, February 11 (However).– The lucrative copper cable theft of the Metro, the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) and Telmexwhich authorities attribute to organized crime for sale and that affects the service or puts at risk thousands of users in the country, it has grown 306 percent in the last five years, according to figures from the Secretariat of Public Security.
In 2022, the states where investigation folders for this crime were opened the most were Puebla (771), Jalisco (263), Quintana Roo (262) and Chihuahua (140), a similar situation in 2021 when this abduction was mostly reported. in Quintana Roo (715), Puebla (487), Jalisco (324), San Luis Potosí (175) and Chihuahua (85).
Given the expansion of electric cars, solar panels and wind farms due to the climate crisis, S&P Global projects a greater demand for tons of copper by 2035, so its price will rise. In January, a kilo of copper sold on average between 88 and 247 Mexican pesos at scrap value, and 175 pesos in the international market.
From 2019 to January 2023, the Metro reported the theft of 14 kilometers of cables with this red metal; Only in 2022 were 32 tons (4.7 kilometers), which last year implied 50 million pesos from the insurance to replace the cables. Public transport authorities that move millions daily filed 57 complaints with the local Prosecutor’s Office in that period, and there have been some detainees (not members of the Union), according to the general director, Guillermo Calderón, and the local Security Secretary , Omar Garcia Harfuch.
For its part, the CFE reported in its 16 divisions from north to south, 1,208 kilometers of copper cables stolen from 2015 to 2020, especially in the Central East and Valley of Mexico, which adds up to economic damage of 273 million 800 A thousand pesos. Given this, the public company has filed 2,668 complaints, according to data from the Transparency Unit of the parastatal.
THEFT OF THE RICHEST IN MEXICO
Organized criminal groups have not limited themselves to the copper cables of the CFE and the Metro, keys to the energy systems, train control and public transport communications. They have also resorted to the cables of telecommunications companies such as Telmex, a fact that —in the face of various reports of service failures— has led the company of tycoon Carlos Slim Helú to begin a total transition project towards fiber optics in Mexico City .
“I communicated with attorney Manuel Bartlett [titular de la CFE] and he told me that they had a very serious problem. Then I contacted Telmex and they also told me that they had a very serious problem; They are asking for support from the Federal Security Secretariat. So that is where we say that it is not a minor matter of a person who enters the Metro records and cuts a cable”, said the Head of Government, Claudia Sheinbaum, a few days ago, in the framework of the various reported accidents.
In the last two years, Telmex has had nearly 5 million meters of copper cable stolen from public roads, which represents 2,481 tons of metal, which is melted down in scrap metals to be later sold, even in the abroad, the company reported to the daily The financial last year.
In that period, Slim’s company filed 30,456 complaints with the authorities and regularly reports to the Federal Institute of Telecommunications (IFT) about this incident that generates daily service complaints.
MODUS OPERANDI IN THE SUBWAY
The theft of copper cables from the Mexico City Metro, although it is not the only cause of accidents and daily failures in the service, since the red metal is a conductor of electricity, it causes the interruption of the power and communication systems , and the theft of the signaling cable can lead to fires.
“The damage is very important, not only in the patrimonial part, but also in the part of the operation, the service, and the security part of the Metro,” said Engineer Guillermo Calderón, general director of the Metro, during a press conference to present the type of cables stolen.
—If cable theft is reduced, will the Metro solve its problems? the CEO was questioned.
—That is partly one of the problems, it is not 100 percent, but it helps and helps to have a much more continuous operation in terms of energy and signals.
The organized groups, it was explained, have knowledge of where, when and which cables to cut along the more than 200 kilometers of roads in the system. His modus operandi It can be in two ways: at night, cutting the cyclonic mesh of the surface stations when the systems are known to be de-energized, or entering through external registers to the Metro, such as sewers.
Where there are more reports of abduction is on Line 2, between Cuatro Caminos and Panteones, and between Xola and Taxqueña; on Line 3 between Indios Verdes and La Raza; on Line 5, between the Petroleum Institute, Valle Gómez, Aragón and Oceanía; on Line 1, between Pantitlán and Guelatao; and on Line B, between Ciudad Azteca and Bosque de Aragón.
During the press conference, Engineer Calderón showed that the most stolen cable is the high-voltage cable (red eight kilos per meter) that feeds the rectification substations, which in turn feed the power for the trains and also feed the power substations and lighting.
The other cable (black) is the traction power cable, a very important cable for the movement of the trains. He also showed the signaling cable (cablecitos), which has 28 pairs of small copper wires, and highlighted the difficulty of acquiring and repairing it.
In an interview with this medium, Jorge Gaviño, former director of the Metro (2015-2018) and member of the Metro Advisory Council, explained that the theft of this signaling cable could cause a fire.
“Those cables, if they are stolen, cause heating in the other cables that are connected in parallel. When you cut one of those, the system continues to work, but it starts to heat up and if it is not dealt with quickly, it can cause fires and failures in the entire system,” said Gaviño, who stressed that during his tenure theft was not as serious as now.
“Scrap dealers buy it for 160 pesos per kilo, but surely there is a more sophisticated criminal organization,” he agreed.
Since these robberies have increased since January of this year, the support of elements of the National Guard was requested. In addition, Metro workers carry out between 60 and 90 scheduled night descents to the tracks for maintenance, at which time the security group checks that the personnel entering the tunnels are accredited and previously registered by the Central Control Post to prevent them from entering the tunnels. a person outside the system can enter.
Likewise, the external records of the system (such as sewers) have already been georeferenced and the places where the irruption and theft of the cable could be feasible have been sealed with cement; In addition, surveillance was reinforced with the C5 cameras and the installation of 3,500 external cameras is planned in the rectification substations, tracks and tunnels.
Reporter on issues of climate crisis, human rights and economy. She graduated from the FCPyS of the UNAM.