Facing Crime Surge, NYC Mayor Tells Storeowners To Ban Face Masks

City Dems in 2020 repealed law that prohibited face masks in public

New York City mayor Eric Adams (Getty Images)
March 6, 2023

New York City mayor Eric Adams (D.) on Monday instructed store owners to refuse entry to people wearing a face mask in an effort to crack down on masked robbers, three years after Democrats repealed a nearly 200-year-old city law that banned face masks in public.

"Putting out a clear call to all our shops, don't let people in the store wearing their facemasks," Adams said in a radio interview, referencing the latest New York Police Department guidance that owners should require shoppers to lower their masks to identify themselves when they enter an establishment.

Citing the pandemic, Democrats in May 2020 repealed an 1845 law that banned the wearing of face masks in public. Then-governor Andrew Cuomo (D.) issued guidance requiring masking, which came into conflict with the law. Now, city leaders are trying to revive the practice amid a spike in crime by masked criminals.

Robberies, burglaries, felony assaults, and other charges jumped 22 percent in 2022 compared with 2021, according to police data. Shoplifting complaints increased by 45 percent over the same period.

Criminals are capitalizing on COVID-19 masking to conceal their identities while shoplifting and assaulting owners, Adams argued.

"And 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," Adams said.

NYPD chief of department Jeffrey Maddrey said last week that businesses should "make this a condition of entry."

"We need our businesses to be proactive and do their due diligence. We need to make sure people are identifying themselves," Maddrey said.

The announcement marks a 180 for Adams, who supported draconian pandemic mandates and as recently as December 2022 told New Yorkers to mask up. Adams's push to crack down on crime comes just a week after Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot (D.), whose city is experiencing a crime surge, lost reelection.

"With the holiday season in full swing and cases of COVID-19, flu, and R.S.V. rising, we are asking New Yorkers to protect themselves and their loved ones once again," Adams said at the time.

Adams, and his predecessor Bill de Blasio, supported strict pandemic restrictions, including sending unvaccinated teachers' fingerprints to the FBI.