A gripping fear of crime has put many Brazilians in the market for armored cars. The NY Times spoke to João Neves, the owner of a small marketing agency, who said that after being robbed twice in traffic he decided to purchase an armored vehicle as extra protection. “Even though the [economic] crisis does exist, I consider my well-being and my security a priority,” Mr. Neves told The Times. “I am afraid of being shot dead.” Neves purchased a 2005 Volkswagen Passat capable of withstanding bullets fired from a .44 Magnum revolver or a 9-millimeter submachine gun.
These vehicles are not just for the rich these days. In fact, they have become a middle- and upper-middle-class staple, especially in São Paulo, which is notorious for roadside assaults and kidnappings.
From the NY Times:
Officially, crime is on the wane. But as the economy slides and the country sheds jobs, there is a palpable dread that street crime will get worse as well, economists here say. Many Paulistanos, as São Paulo residents are called, say the interminable stop-and-go traffic and the wide gap between haves and have-nots are recipes for assaults and carjackings, especially now that Brazil’s boom times have come to a halt.
“It is not a question of if you are going to be assaulted, it is when it is going to happen,” said Craig Bavington, who runs a tourist agency based here. After being assaulted twice, he decided to buy a used armored car two years ago when his wife became pregnant with their first child.
More than 7,000 vehicles were armored for civilian use in Brazil in 2008, up from 1,782 a decade earlier, and the pace has continued in 2009 despite the economy’s dispiriting first quarter, according to the Brazilian Association of Bulletproof Manufacturers.
A decade ago, there were just a handful of armoring companies in Brazil. Today there are about 120.