New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat, said that local stores and bars should require guests to remove masks when entering businesses as a safety precaution in an abrupt change from the city’s previous masking policies.
Adams, who allowed mask mandates to remain for schoolchildren until the summer of 2022, has now called for stores to implement no-mask policies in order to increase the use of facial recognition technologies aimed to lower crime in the city.
“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 if they so desire to do so,” Adams said during an interview with 1010-WINS.
“When you see these mask-wearing people, oftentimes it’s not about being fearful of the pandemic. It’s fearful of the police catching [them] for their deeds,” he added.
Adams noted that shoppers are welcome to remove their mask to confirm their identity when entering a store and can then put it back on for those who wish to wear one over health concerns.
NYPD Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey also shared during a recent news conference about the need to lower one’s mask when first entering a business.
“As a sign of a peace offering, a sign of safety to those store workers, when we walk in, we should take down our mask,” Maddrey said, calling it “a commonsense approach.”
The chief explained that some people are using masks as a way to avoid detection and rob stores.
“People are coming up to our businesses, sometimes with masks, sometimes masks, hoods and latex gloves, and they’re being allowed, they’re being buzzed in and allowed to enter the store and we have a robbery,” he added.
The facial recognition effort is focused on both combatting shoplifting and helping law enforcement catch repeat offenders or suspects from other crimes.
The effort is part of the city’s work to reduce crime. Robberies soared in the Big Apple last year, with 17,411 reported compared with 13,831 in 2021, according to New York Police Department data.
Crimes in New York City increased in other areas as well in 2022. Surges in robbery, burglary and other crimes drove a 22% increase in overall major crime last year. The mayor is focusing on retail stores and subway safety as top areas to address to improve safety in the city.