NEW YORK – New York City Mayor Eric Adams has called on shop owners to require customers to remove their face masks when entering stores to help cut down on retail crime that has surged since the pandemic.
“We are putting out a clear call to all of our shops: Do not allow people to enter the store without taking off their face mask. And then once they're inside, they can continue to wear it if they so desire to do so,” Mr Adams said on Monday in a radio interview on 1010 Wins.
The measure is necessary to help police officers identify suspects who are evading law enforcement by wearing masks while committing crimes, Mr Adams said.
The New York City Police Department (NYPD) is also calling for mask removal at stores.
“Let's be clear, some of these characters going into stores that are wearing their mask, they're not doing it because they're afraid of the pandemic, they're doing it because they're afraid of the police,” Mr Adams said in a separate television interview on Monday on Pix 11.
“We need to stop allowing them to exploit the safety of the pandemic by wearing masks, committing crimes.”
Mr Adams referred specifically to an incident over the weekend when a person wearing a hazmat suit and mask robbed, shot and killed a deli worker on the Upper East Side in Manhattan.
The mayor's comments come as the city is touting a decrease in crime year over year, with reported major crimes dropping 5.6 per cent in February compared with the same month in 2022.
Reported robberies declined 10.5 per cent and burglaries fell 15 per cent during the same period, according to crime statistics released last week by the NYPD.
Customers were required to wear masks in stores and other public businesses for much of the pandemic, until state and city officials relaxed regulations last year. Individual businesses are allowed to impose stricter restrictions on customers.