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Information sign on a restaurant door during COVID-19 in New York

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After a wave of violent robberies, the New York Police Department is suggesting that businesses should ask people entering to unmask as a safety measure.

At a press conference held Tuesday (Feb. 28), NYPD Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey was asked about the rise in violent robberies in the city and a recent case where a 79-year-old woman was brutally assaulted at a jewelry store in Flushing, Queens. The police have gone on record saying that they have had difficulty identifying suspects due to them wearing masks. “We are asking the businesses to make this a condition of entry, that people when they come in, they show their face, they should identify themselves,” Maddrey said.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses would ask that patrons remove their masks when entering. As the pandemic raged on, they have been requesting patrons mask up. “We’re seeing far too often where 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,” Maddrey continued. “We need our businesses to be proactive and do their due diligence. We need to make sure people are identifying themselves.”

The robbery at the Diamonds Direct store Feb. 21 occurred when the woman, who was watching the store for her daughter when she went out to lunch, buzzed in three people including one who pretended to be an Amazon delivery driver. The daughter, an immigrant from Taiwan who owns the store, feels they were professional thieves.

“They scheduled a delivery, make sure you are on your premises — you open your door and they will come to make a fake delivery,” she said to a local news network. “It could happen to anybody, older people, parents, kids at home. You’re expecting delivery on Amazon, UPS, maybe Con Edison, the people dressed in uniform.”

The NYPD has said that there have been 11 robberies at jewelry stores this year so far. Last year, robberies spiked to a rate of over 30% when compared to the previous two years. They have stated that they will begin to offer free security assessments to local businesses.