BULLET-PROOF JACKET SALES BOOM IN CALIF.

BULLET-PROOF JACKET SALES BOOM IN CALIF.

The owner of a sporting goods store in San Leandro, Calif., is beaming at sales figures for the store's latest de rigueur item.

The item is a casual bullet-proof jacket from Israel. It is strong enough to stop a speeding bullet and sleek enough to let the wearer go unnoticed in any trendy watering hole.The store, Traders, has been offering the windbreaker-type jackets for the past three years. But sales of the coats, which go for $349.50, have just recently begun to fly.

Tony Cucchiara, the store's owner, said he sold about 2,000 coats last year. Three years ago, he sold only about 50.

There's so much crime around, and people want to protect themselves, Mr. Cucchiara said. Criminals break the laws. People have to do what they can.

Even if you're just getting out of your car and going to the store, you can be subjected to criminals. You're never really safe, he said.

Mr. Cucchiara said most of the buyers tend to be middle-aged men who work in not-so-safe parts of the San Francisco Bay Area or who have jobs in which they have to carry large amounts of money.

The jacket weighs about 4 pounds and comes in navy, olive drab or light green. They contain in the front and back 12 layers of Kevlar, a synthetic, netted material that can stop a bullet from a .357-caliber Magnum flying at 380 feet a second, according to the coat's label.

This garment can save your life, the label reads. And because of that, Mr. Cucchiara sells thousands of the coats each year to area police departments.