Police Struggling to Identify Suspects Because of Corona Mask Mandates

A police officer wears a face mask as he stands on the concourse at Waterloo Station in London on June 15, 2020 after new rules make wearing face coverings on public transport compulsory while the UK further eases its coronavirus lockdown. - New coronavirus pandemic rules coming into force on …
NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP via Getty Images

An English police force has admitted that it is struggling to draw profile pictures for digital wanted posters because criminals are hiding their faces behind coronavirus masks.

A specialist in drawing Electronic Facial Identification Technique (E-fit) profiles, the modern-day wanted poster, at Kent Police in the south-east of England, has said that at times she is left unable to help victims or witnesses of crimes because they have little physical description to work with.

“We are seeing an increase in reports of suspects wearing masks,” said Susan Morrison, a civilian supervisor at the force’s Identification Suite.

Ms Morrison told KentOnline on Thursday that “while we view each case separately, sometimes it can be more stressful for the victim to go through the process of making an E-fit than the result is useful to the investigation.

“It’s horrible to say no to people but sometimes, especially with masks, it just won’t help.”

Some forces, as The Telegraph reports, are still issuing e-fits of suspects with more than half of their face covered by masks.

Humberside police was one such force that resorted to issued e-fits of suspects in masks who had burgled a man’s home in October and assaulted him.

Wearing masks inside shops and on public transport became mandatory in England on July 24th, but the issue of criminals wearing masks goes as far back as the time of the first lockdown, in March 2020.

A report from last year revealed that gang members in the south-east dealing drugs were using medical masks in hopes that police will mistake them for cautious young people, rather than as those trying to hide their identity for criminal purposes. Thieves also used masks in Nottingham, the Midlands, to disguise themselves in April 2020 while stealing a car.

This is not the first time that criminals have taken advantage of Britain’s lack of laws on obscuring one’s identity to commit crimes.

Unlike several other countries around Europe and the wider world, it is not illegal to wear a burqa, niqab, or any other full face veil associated with Islamic culture in public. As a result, some criminals have taken advantage of Britain’s liberal laws to use Islamic masks as disguises while committing crimes.

A gang of ten armed robbers had worn burqas to disguise themselves as they raided jewellery stores and supermarkets in Greater Manchester between 2015 and 2016.

In 2007, July 21st Islamist terror plotter Yassin Omar fled from London to Birmingham while disguised as a Muslim woman in a full-body burqa.

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