Wearing a mask in public used to mean one thing: You’re a robber.
But now everyone’s wearing them everywhere, and crooks are taking advantage of the new trend.
Police in Santa Ana, California, say robberies in the city have risen by 50% since the lock down over the coronavirus.
“It’s horrible,” Elias Khawan, who owns a gas station and convenience store, told CBS-LA. “I mean, I know we have to take certain measures because of what’s happening with COVID-19, but it’s the perfect script or manual for a robber — the mask, the sunshade and a hoodie. You don’t know who’s coming, who’s walking in.”
“In an April robbery, a thief hid his face with a bandana at a doughnut shop on Bristol. The cashier was caught off guard when the thief pulled out a gun and placed it on the counter. The thief then emptied both registers before getting away,” CBS reported.
“It’s the norm,” said Santa Ana Police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna. “So we’re seeing more and more suspects wearing the mask and using that to their benefit.”
Meanwhile in Connecticut, a man has been charged with robbing five gas stations and convenience stores, all while wearing a mask, police said.
“Criminals, they’re smart and this is a perfect opportunity for them to conceal themselves and blend right in,” Richard Bell, police chief in the tiny Pennsylvania community of Frackville, told The Associated Press. Bell said that seven recent armed robberies in the are were committed by robbers wearing masks.
“Just how many criminals are taking advantage of the pandemic to commit crimes is impossible to estimate, but law enforcement officials have no doubt the numbers are climbing. Reports are starting to pop up across the United States and in other parts of the world of crimes pulled off in no small part because so many of us are now wearing masks,” the AP reported.
In March, two men walked into Aqueduct Racetrack in New York wearing the same kind of surgical masks as many racing fans there and, at gunpoint, robbed three workers of a quarter-million dollars they were moving from gaming machines to a safe. Other robberies involving suspects wearing surgical masks have occurred in North Carolina, and Washington, D.C, and elsewhere in recent weeks. …
[T]he prevalence of masks in society has created other problems for law enforcement. Before life in a pandemic, masked marauders had to free their faces immediately after leaving a bank or store to avoid suspicion once in the general public. But it came with the risk of being photographed and identified through omnipresent surveillance cameras and cellphones.
These days, they can keep the masks on and blend in easily with or without being “captured” in images.
“The video is much less useful if we are unable to see a face,” said Carlos Marquez, a detective division commander in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, in an email.
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