TEPEACA, Mexico (AP) — Gasoline thieves are out of control in Mexico, tapping into pipelines in broad daylight often with the support of local townsfolks and under the noses of authorities.
The growing and lucrative form of organized crime has become a blood trade with deadly shootouts, murders and deadly fireballs. Parts of central Mexico have turned into Mad Max-scapes of burned-out abandoned vehicles, vans hollowed out to hold giant tanks and trucks converted into homemade armored cars.
It is an industrial-scale operation, involving a string of villages and hamlets along pipeline routes. The government says more than 6,000 illegal pipeline taps were found in 2016 and officials have been detecting an average of about 20 taps a day this year. It estimates fuel theft costs Mexico about $1 billion a year.