Aside from its medical, financial and social impacts, the coronavirus pandemic has posed another challenge to the police as criminals are increasingly taking advantage of the health crisis to hide their faces behind masks.
The police's strategy of identifying criminals by watching security footages and nabbing them has failed to produce results during the virus crisis.
The requirement to wear a mask to prevent the risk of infection has become a boon for miscreants as it enables them to effectively conceal their identities during crimes, reports bdnews24.com.
Investigators are facing many hurdles to find the suspects in a theft case in Chawkbazar of Old Dhaka, police said.
“We couldn’t identify the criminals as they were wearing masks,” said Moudud Howladar, chief of Chawkbazar Police Station.
Police are yet to arrest anyone over the theft case at a warehouse in Begum Bazar, Chawkbazar on May 21. In a separate incident on May 16, a mugger on a motorbike snatched Tk 182,000 from a rickshaw passenger in Bakshibazar.
The video footage from a CC camera in the area showed three men wearing masks but after three weeks of investigation, police are still no closer to making an arrest.
On May 11, mask-wearing assailants beat up a rider of ride-sharing service Pathao and stole his motorbike near BUET.
Thieves stole goods worth Tk 300,000 from Monwara Medical Hall, a medicine store in Jatrabari's Mirhazaribag on May 3.
The security footage showed two masked men entering the shop and then loading the stolen medicine cartons in a private car. The whole incident lasted five minutes before the thieves pulled the shutters down and left.
“Jatrabari police and the detective branch are working in tandem to catch the criminals. It’s a bit tough as they wore masks,” said Jatarabari Police OC Mazharul Islam.
Thieves also stole around Tk 2 million from a mobile phone shop in DIT Road, Malibag on Jun 3.
A case was filed in Rampura Police Station but police are yet to arrest anybody or recover the goods.
“We’ve received the video footage and started the investigation. All of those involved in the theft wore masks,” said Quddus Fakir, chief of Rampura Police Station.
“Wearing a mask is not a major problem but the fact that the incident took place at night during a heavy downpour is the real issue,” said the police official.
The government made it mandatory for citizens to wear masks outside to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Failure to comply will result in a fine.
Ordinary people are wearing masks as well as caps to protect themselves from the virus and criminals are now taking advantage of the trend, said police officials.
Police were successful in catching four criminals over the theft of Tk 8 million from National Bank in Old Dhaka, all of whom wore masks.
“It is not impossible to nab a criminal if they were a mask, but it complicates the process,” Nure Alam, an inspector at Kotwali Police Station, said.
Criminals had used masks to cover their faces in many robberies and muggings even before the coronavirus epidemic but they were all caught, he said.
“A criminal will be caught if they commit a crime, irrespective of whether they're wearing a mask or not,” said Shahbagh Police OC Abul Hassan.
“In earlier days, we didn’t have CC cameras like we have now. But police apprehended the criminals even then. It’s just that it takes a little longer to find them if the criminals use different disguises.”
Nevertheless, the lack of CCTV footage did not stop police from identifying three criminals in masks who snatched a motorbike from a man near Dhaka Medical College a few days ago. “Their arrests are still pending,” OC Hassan said.
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