Maskdemic? Police report huge increase in robberies

by WorldTribune Staff, May 17, 2020

Get used to wearing a mask. Get used to getting robbed.

Is this part of the new normal?

Suspect in Newburyport, Massachusetts bank robbery. / Newburyport Police Department

Santa Ana, California police have reported a 50 percent increase in robberies since government mandated lockdown orders began.

Santa Ana Police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna lamented the new normal: “It’s the norm. So we’re seeing more and more suspects wearing the mask and using that to their benefit.”

Gas station/convenience store owner Elias Khawan recently described the situation to CBS-LA: “It’s horrible. 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.”

Channel 2 reported on a similar incident in San Bernardino County: “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.”

In Connecticut, a man was charged with five gas station robberies — all while wearing his pandemic-friendly face mask.

The Associated Press reported that, 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.

“The 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 AP noted.

Others pointed out that criminals are taking advantage of police forces which, on orders from governors or mayors, are too busy with enforcing lockdown orders and social distancing mandates.

Recent headlines would seem to confirm those concerns:

• “Maryland police respond to more than 400 calls for stay-at-home order violations”
• “2 arrested, 70 cited for violating stay-at-home orders, Honolulu police say”
• “Newark cops shut down 15 businesses, ticketed 161 people in 1 night for coronavirus lockdown violations”

Red state’s Alex Parker noted in a May 16 op-ed: “In the past, that ski-masked dude beside you at the bank might raise suspicion. But now, the armed and aspiring thief wouldn’t stand out — he’s just another guy protecting his (and your) health. Until he hits you with a hammer.

“It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that if everyone looks like a robber, it’s easier to be one.”


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