|How to tell a bullet-proof car. The black "margin" around the window (not the rubber bit)|
As I have mentioned before, I have found myself in charge of our house's motor pool (of two cars). This week it was the turn of my Honda CRV. The window was making a click-click noise when lowered. And it is making this noise because it is "blindado" or "protected". Or as most like to translate: "bullet-proofed." In actuality, bullet-proofing adds a great deal of weight to the motor that raises and lowers the front windows, and these windows only open halfway. Rear windows do not open at all.
I know I've talked about bullet-proof cars here a few times. But it came up again today for two reasons: 1. This is the first time I have visited the bullet-proofing factory in Barra Funda and 2. Because a sister gringa was robbed at gunpoint last night. Her car was not blindado.
I am not going to name my bulletproofing company--they work with Honda, but they are not Honda. Let's call them BPC for Bulletproofing Company. The reason I am not going to name them is that they seem to go out of their way to be secretive. When I finally found the place down a dark alley of walled-in buildings, I wasn't sure it was them. A street number was on the big rolling door, but no sign at all. I had to call my service representative and say "am I here??" And yes, he told me to just "embicar" (love this--put the "beak" of the car) in front of the huge gunmetal grey door and they would open it. And so it rumbled open...to show a tiny antechamber (picture the Panama Canal locks) where the front door closed behind me before the front door opened. I actually sat there for a few seconds wondering if some water would start pouring in...
|A car entering the locks...|
Finally the door in front opened and lo and behold...about 100 blindado cars all in a huge warehouse, guarded by the cutest black terrier mix I'd ever seen. I was asked about the problem with the window and then escorted to the waiting area for a coffee. Where the following was displayed behind the coffee stand:
Pictured is a Level 3 bullet-proofed window that has been tested by the factory for security. You can't see too well in this photo: the window has a spider web of cracks but has not been broken. When I commented on this with Silvio, the receptionist, he led me over to another display which was even more graphic, and of an actual attempted crime.
|Caliber 40. Photo credit: www.aquilafaa.com|
As I had learned when I was buying my bulletproof car, the only way to shoot through the glass on a level 3 bulletproofed car is to shoot six times in exactly the same place. Not much chance of that as you should be accelerating away.
As my sales rep said to me, if it's a handgun, you're probably good. If it's an Uzi or other automated large weapon (cannon, nuclear warhead, etc), you will want to stop and let them have the car. Now the interesting thing to me on the door above was that Silvio said the door was shot 23 times, not one bullet got through, and that the criminals had known that the door was bullet-proof. So why did they shoot, I ask? "Pura maldade" ("Pure wickedness" is the direct translation I get...isn't that an oxymoron?). They were pissed off that the car was impregnable.
Now at this point in my story, I stop and think to myself - what the heck am I doing in a city where I need to drive a bulletproof car? And that's just the thing. I don't drive it because it is bulletproof, but because it is "protected", which is the actual translation of "blindado". The most common crime against drivers here is "smash and grab" -- a motoboy and accomplice will drive up next to you, smash the side window and grab what is in the back. Or simply point the gun at you through the window and suggest that you hand over everything, including sometimes, the car.
The crime here is robbery, it is not murder. Our murder rate in São Paulo is about to go under 10 per 100,000 which is "reasonable" for a large city. However our robberies are going up month over month--and I know someone who was robbed in her car at gunpoint in the last twenty-four hours. For more on what to do about all this (if you are a resident), please see the Safety in São Paulo series on my blog. You can search for it on the right.
In the end, my car window was fixed. The problem was a bum "amortecedor" ("shock absorber" -- windows have shock absorbers? All news to me...) Fixed free and with a smile from Marcelo, my punk rocker (complete with gelled up hair and skinny jeans) service rep. Back through the locks and home again through the always-surprising streets of São Paulo.