NEWS

Mexican Crime Wave Drives Personal Security Spending

By Matthew Harwood

A wave of crime, marked by narco-killings and kidnappings, has plunged Mexico into a state of fear and created a boon for its security industry, reports The Dallas Morning News.

Fearful Mexicans are injecting rice-sized security chips under their skin, strapping on $400 bulletproof vests under work shirts, and installing satellite trackers in their cars as an unchecked crime wave sweeps the nation.

Along the Mexican border with Texas, factory workers are given personal security classes by U.S. trainers, who tell them to alter their routes to work and keep track of reappearing vehicles to make it more difficult for them to be followed.

The upper middle class and the rich are turning to bulletproofing their vehicles, a booming "accessory item" that runs from $20,000 to $100,000 based on what kind of bullets the buyer wants to be able to stop.

Mexico, according to studies, is a criminal's paradise with 99 percent of crimes going unpunished. The country has seen  the rate of kidnappings rise 8.6 percent in 2007 from 2006. Even these numbers, however, are probably low as many kidnappings go unreported because victims' families fear the police are involved. Even President Felipe Calderón has admitted that police are involved in various criminal enterprises and have even executed kidnapped children.

The crime wave coupled with a notoriously corrupt police force has thus resulted in people taking their protection into their own hands, driving lavish spending on personal protection goods and services. Armored cars sales are predicted to increase by 200 units this year. (About 1500 were sold last year.) The sales of global positioning systems—whether carried or installed in vehicles—rise 25 percent a year. Some people have even resorted to bullet-proof clothing that typically ranges from $400 to $6,000 but can run higher.

Security consultant John French also warns wealthy Mexicans to stay off popular online social networking sites, such as Facebook, because kidnappers cruise the Web sites looking for any displays of wealth, such as vacations, to target their victims.

The epidemic of crime has become so severe that more than one million Mexicans are expected to take part in anti-crime marches in 17 states on Saturday night, including three on the Mexican-Texas border.

Calderón has acknowledged the domestic security problem but says his government will solve it.

"I know that Mexico faces a great security problem," he said. "It's a cancer that has been incubating during years and one that was not paid attention to, but it is a cancer that we are going to eradicate."

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