Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Products Breed Civilian Crime Fighters Personal Protection Business Thrives as Fear of Crime Grows

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Products Breed Civilian Crime Fighters Personal Protection Business Thrives as Fear of Crime Grows

Article excerpt

The big business of personal protection creates a sound and light show that dazzles the senses - and, the sellers say, deters crime.

Among the examples displayed downtown Sunday at the annual meeting of the International Association of Chiefs of Police:

Whistles that blow at triple the normal decibel level.

Aerosol canisters that spray tear gas, hot pepper and dye.

Flashlights that blink signals through pink cones.

Body alarms that pierce the air with shrieking tones.

The convention runs through Tuesday at the Cervantes Convention Center. About 9,000 people are expected to attend. On Tuesday, U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno and Stephen E. Higgins, former director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, will speak.

Those who promote the devices are banking on people's fear of crime and their doubts about the ability of police to protect them.

"There is no longer a cop on every corner, and there never will be one," said John Bruhns, a retired detective from Detroit who sells BodyGuard, a spray defense product.

"It's the fear that sells," said Sue Smitt, an executive with Guardian Products, the spray's maker.

People appear willing to pay for a sense of security. They want to be able to shop, jog, camp, travel, commute, bike or walk across a college campus feeling that their body and property are protected.

Most of the devices cost from $6 to $20.

"We can't rely on the government anymore," said Dr. Howard Wright, inventor of the Storm safety whistle. "We have to assume responsibility ourselves."

Wright, a dentist from St. Louis, designed the whistle for military use under water. Now he has 75,000 customers each year, including a boarding school in New York. He is negotiating an order from a real estate company here that wants to provide the whistles to its sales force.

The whistle blows at a level loud enough to be heard through glass and over the roar of wind, lawn mowers or airplanes, Wright said. …

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