How do you catch the bad guys when everyone is wearing a mask?

Joe Biden recently endorsed the idea of enforcing a nationwide face mask mandate if he’s elected president. While some may see that as a good thing in terms of preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus, others bristle at that level of national intrusion on both states’ rights and personal freedoms. But there’s one group that’s been benefitting quite a bit from various mask orders in place around the country. That group would be composed of criminals.

Prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, the sight of someone entering a bank or a store wearing a mask was an immediate cause for concern if not a fast call to 911. What reason does a person have to cloak their identity inside of the comfortable atmosphere of a place of business if they aren’t up to no good? But today it’s not only the normal state of affairs but mandatory in many places. And those looking to commit crimes know it. But perhaps it’s not as bad as we’re making it out to be. A spokesperson for the Charleston Police Department says that this trend is complicating their jobs, but it’s nothing they haven’t dealt with in the past. And besides, they have other ways of identifying suspects. (Washington Examiner)

The widespread use of face masks across the country has made it more challenging for police officers to identify suspects, solve crimes, and make arrests, according to law enforcement officials.

“It does impact our jobs, but the safety of the people in this world with this pandemic has got to be above that,” Charleston Police Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Capt. Dustin Thompson said. The South Carolina official described masks as just another hurdle that police are accustomed to having to overcome to solve crimes.

“We’re used to working cases where people are wearing masks and the video’s grainy or something is covering their face,” said Thompson, who previously led the violent crimes unit in the South Carolina city. “We’re really good at going off other clues: their clothing, their shoes, what they’re wearing, their vehicle, tattoos — using other means to identify people who commit crimes.”

Police officers from San Antonio, Los Angeles and Lexington, Kentucky also commented for this article, all offering similar opinions. Yes, the masks complicate matters, but there are other tools that can be used to track people down. One of the more problematic areas, however, has been seen during the riots this summer. When you have hundreds or even thousands of people running rampant while wearing masks, it’s more difficult to pick out other identifying details and sort them out from the crowd. And in cases like the mass looting seen in Chicago’s Miracle Mile, it’s almost impossible to identify any of the criminals unless they are stupid enough to live stream their looting activities.

All of this only serves to remind us of the importance of both private and municipal surveillance cameras. Facial recognition software has its own challenges during the best of times, but when everyone is wearing masks, that pretty much goes out the window. And yet cameras can catch perpetrators and trail them to a place where they might remove their mask, or perhaps to their vehicle where a license plate can be recorded. Failing that, they might be recorded meeting up with a friend or accomplice who isn’t wearing a mask. In that case, the police could have an identifiable person of interest to question about the suspect’s identity.

This face mask situation may be with us for quite a while yet to come. And the police are under siege as it is, particularly in the larger cities. (Not only from rioters, but also from their own liberal, municipal governments, sadly.) They need all the help they can get in restoring order and the prominent use of surveillance technology is one tool to give them a chance at doing their jobs.

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