If you saw one of Tom Parrella’s big black Suburbans on the road you probably wouldn’t guess that it’s really a mobile fortress for the rich, the famous or any other potential target of unwanted attention.
But open the unremarkable back hatch and you’ll find another door that could stop a bullet or a bomb blast.
The specially fitted-out SUVs also sport infrared cameras, run-flat tires, self-sealing fuel tanks, armored batteries and dozens of other features meant to keep passengers safe and serene.
Parrella used his experience as a police offer and profits from his still flourishing real estate business to start Bulletproof Securities, an elite personal protection service, in — where else? — Scottsdale.
The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, lack of sufficient border security and the U.S. position in world conflicts convinced him of the need, he said.
“We see things changing and the threats coming here,” Parrella said. “And it’s something that is going to be more frequent in the future.”
He’s hoping to land some business overseas, possibly to protect government installations or military bases in warrife regions.
But, so far, it’s the celebrities, athletes and high-profile corporate CEOs that have bought his services.
Scottsdale is popular with all those types as a place to live or visit, so business is good, Parrella said.
But that’s about all he will reveal about his clientele or the services they request.
The tools he uses are impressive. The 6,000-squarefoot back room — the heart of his operation — includes space for at least a dozen vehi- cles, including a giant hydraulic hoist used to raise trucks and cars so his employees can sweep them for bombs or bugs. There are huge safes for guns and weapons, and a workbench where Parrella can tailor his own equipment and steel racks packed with boxes of specialized gear.
The lockers at one end of the room hold gear from camouflage khakis to three piece suits so employees can blend in or stand out depending on the job and how high-profile the subject wants to be, “We dress to meet the mission’s needs,” Parrella said. In fact, the Suburban protects privacy as well as the occupant. But Bulletproof’s fully armored Humvee does the opposite. Sometimes just parking it — outside an executive retreat in a mountain cabin, for example — is enough to dissuade possible no-gooders, Parrella said.
He can even mount a machine gun on top, which should eliminate any question about whether the security provider means business.
Bulletproof even has a “fast boat” in case a customer wants to feel safe while lazing in a houseboat on a lake.
And Parrella uses his real estate services to set up and secure temporary safe houses for women going through nasty divorces.
Bulletproof charges about twice the per-hour fee as the typical rent-a-security-guard services and the vehicles and specialized gear are add-ons. But Parrella said it’s because he said all of his employees go through an intense screening process and are trained continuously to handle “extreme and executive” situations.