Crime & Justice

Mexico violence hikes demand for armor plating, bullet-proof vests

By Eduard Ribas i Admetlla

Mexico City, May 24 (EFE).- The increase in violence in Mexico over the past decade has caused the demand for architectural armor plating and bullet-proof vests to skyrocket, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic and election campaigns, in a country where the security industry represents about 2 percent of the GDP.

“There has been an increase in crime and the only thing we’re doing is offering solutions so that customers can be safe and safeguard their physical integrity and assets,” Rene Fausto Rivera, the president of the National Council for the Ballistics Industry, created just three years ago amid the diversification in the sector.

With almost 100 murders per day, Mexico is experiencing a wave of violence that has been on the rise since President Felipe Calderon, who governed from 2006-2012, ordered the army to combat drug traffickers.

Despite the months of confinement during the Covid pandemic, the country registered 34,600 homicides in 2020, a figure very close to the 34,700 registered in 2019.

There were also more than 800 kidnappings and 604,000 reported robberies in private homes, vehicles or out on the street.

Because of this, the demand for architectural armor plating has been rising “everywhere,” with jewelry stores, strategic installations, big companies and private households among those opting to purchase additional protection of this kind, Fausto Rivera said.

“Given the increase in the lack of security, people are looking to make ‘panic rooms,’ where the access door to the street is armored to provide protection,” he added.

According to his calculations, the security industry – which includes armor plating, private security guards and video-monitoring – represents about 2 percent of Mexico’s GDP.

In the past few years, metal doors have been improved and polycarbonate home or shop windows have evolved that can resist bullets fired by a .44 Magnum or an AK-47 assault rifle.

The important thing is “not the thickness or the materials, but rather the performance and the composition,” he said.

That is why a laminated glass pane 45 millimeters (1.77 inches) thick may break under heavy blows while a polycarbonate pane of 12 mm (0.47 inches) resists that, he said.

During the months of pandemic lockdown, between April and June 2020, many luxury product businesses increased their outlay for security but where the increase in demand was particularly noted was in private homes.

“Curiously, there was more demand in homes than in businesses. It was a very unusual phenomenon (but it was) because people were inside their houses more,” he said.

In addition, on June 28 many people were shocked over the assault rifle attack on the vehicle of the Mexico City police chief, Omar Garcia Harfuch, which failed but showed the bloody presence of the New Generation Jalisco Cartel (CJNG) in the Mexican capital.

Since then, many customers have been asking for materials that resist .50-caliber weaponry.

“We’ve noted that in certain areas of business which are in very isolated spots, (with the increased level of risk) they’re asking to increase the level of … protection,” Fausto Rivera said.

Although over the past decade 90 percent of the demand for bullet-proof vests has been from the police with just 10 percent from civilians, currently the latter represent 30 percent of the demand.

Thus, the vests have been evolving to be more and more ergonomic and less heavy, weighing just three kilograms (6.6 pounds) at present.

“We’re looking to make protection more comfortable in the case of a police officer and more discrete in the case of a civilian,” Ignacio Baca, the president of the Body Armor Commission, told EFE.

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