Criminals Use Face Masks to Evade Arrest in Islamabad

Coronavirus has changed the world and brought a new normal along with it. There is nothing unusual about wearing a face mask outside the four walls of one’s home. However, criminals have recently begun using these safety instruments as a tool to mask their identity and avoid being taken into custody. 

Before the coronavirus struck, shopkeepers and bank tellers could be on high alert if they ever saw masked men. However, the current scenario prevents law enforcement agencies, as well as normal people, from being wary of suspicious men with covered faces. 

Criminals are now able to blend in with other people at banks and malls. Thus, they are now able to avoid showing their face in CCTV footage. 

Ishtiaq Ahmed, an APP senior reporter, was robbed in the I-8.1 area of Islamabad on the 23rd of September in broad daylight. The looters took away Rs.800,000 that he was carrying at the time. According to him, he could have found the masked men chasing him, if the circumstances had been different. 

However, since it is normal to wear a mask these days, they looted the reporter and sped away. He stated that the mask acted as the perfect cover for the robbers. 

These days, it has become increasingly easy for thieves to hold up any shop or bank with their faces covered. Soon as they are done robbing a person or place, they escape unhindered. The police also do not impound bikes that either do not have or carry non-standard number plates. 

On the 30th of September, another robbery of Rs.1.5 million occurred in the I-8 Markaz of the federal capital. The CCTV footage revealed a masked man inside the bank who appeared to be intimidating his accomplices on the phone. He had previously seen a man leave the bank with a bag full of cash and turned hostile. 

A bank employee gave a statement saying that before the virus, a mask or a bandana was a dicey proposition when it came to criminals. However, despite being normal these days, it is scary as well. He also went on to say that it is next to impossible for them to tell the difference between a criminal and a customer. 

A senior police official informed that the increase in crime was not directly related to people wearing face masks everywhere. But, he did admit that it has proven to be a valuable instrument for criminals wanting to blend in and go unnoticed. 

In light of recent events, the senior officials agreed that a provision could be made. This would allow security staff situated outside malls and banks to screen the people entering. The entrants could be asked to remove their face mask, long enough for the camera to capture their faces. 

He went on to add that besides face coverings, suspicious people and criminals could be singled out by their body language, confidence, or movement when questioned. 

This problem is not only occurring in Pakistan but, countries all over the world are considering revising SOPs to ensure that face masks are not misused.