Santa Ana Police: Robberies Soar 50% as Suspects Exploit Mask Recommendation

Man in ski mask holding a gun - pistol - glock.
Geoffrey Fairchild/Flickr

Santa Ana, California, is experiencing a surge in crime as suspects exploit a national recommendation to wear masks to prevent the spread of the Chinese coronavirus.

The Santa Ana Police Department told CBS News Los Angeles that the city has seen a 50 percent spike in robberies since California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced a sweeping stay-at-home order in March. Speaking to the news outlet, one gas station clerk recounted how he was held up at gunpoint by a masked thief last Friday at 2 a.m. The clerk said the suspect didn’t arouse suspicion because mask coverings are now the norm, allowing the thief to catch him off guard when he pulled a gun on him and took his cash before getting away in a silver Nissan Altima.

“It’s horrible,” the clerk lamented. “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.”

In April, one thief using a bandana to cover his face robbed a doughnut shop on Bristol. The suspect emptied both registers before fleeing the scene.

“It’s the norm,” conceded Corporal Anthony Bertagna. “So we’re seeing more and more suspects wearing the mask and using that to their benefit.”

The concerning crime figure comes after Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) announced that residents must wear masks when leaving their homes as part of the city’s ongoing effort to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

“And as long as you’re not doing a solitary activity or with your own household, put that mask on,” he said in a statement. “Always now.”

Meanwhile, Los Angeles County’s stay-home order is likely to be extended by three months, Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer announced Tuesday. Speaking to ABC Good Morning America, Garcetti said Los Angeles won’t fully reopen until there is a “cure” for the virus, which has infected 35,329 residents and killed 1,709.

“We’ve never been fully closed, we’ll never be completely open until we have a cure. But I do believe that we can take steps, but monitor those numbers, listen to the scientists and the medical professionals, and make the tough calls even when there’s criticism,” he told host George Stephanopoulos.

In April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began encouraging Americans to wear cloth face masks or homemade face coverings in public to fight the spread of coronavirus, reversing its previous recommendations that masks need to be worn only by those who are infected with the illness.

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