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King County Sheriff's Office, mask mandate
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King County Sheriff’s Office spots uptick in masked criminals

(Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)

At a time when people in King County are directed to wear masks both indoors and out to reduce the spread of coronavirus, the King County Sheriff’s Office is noticing an uptick in masked criminals.

King County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Ryan Abbott says more suspects than usual are wearing masks, including medical-grade masks, to conceal their faces during robberies and burglaries.

“We are seeing a slight increase in cases where criminals are committing crimes and they’re wearing the masks, because people don’t think anything different of it,” he said.

One suspect in a recent Federal Way home burglary wore an N95 mask, and another in a North King County burglary wore one as well. Abbott said the sheriff’s office was still able to identify the North King County suspect based on mannerisms and other features, as the person was known to the office.

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With regular customers walking into banks and convenience stores with bandannas around their faces, how can workers at those businesses differentiate would-be criminals?

Abbott said they should look for someone distracted and fidgeting, behaving almost as if they’re casing the place.

“A lot of times people will be really nervous if they’re going to commit a crime, if you see someone looking around in a lot of different areas … Maybe it’s them coming in and not doing anything, looking around for a bit and then leaving, coming back again a second or third time,” he said.

He advises people to trust their gut feeling and call law enforcement if they’re suspicious, just so officers can stop by and have a look.

“We have no problem coming by and talking to them and trying to find out what they’re up to,” he said. “And if it’s nothing, then it’s nothing. But if it ends up being something more, … we’d rather find out if it’s actually happening than have something bad happen and we don’t get called until after it’s over.”

Still, he said, there is no reason to live in fear — the vast majority of mask-wearers are just normal people trying not to add to the spread of COVID-19.

“If somebody comes in wearing a mask and is just doing their daily [routine], coming into the bank to get money out of their account or depositing money, and they seem like they’re not up to something, then they’re just a normal patron doing their business,” he said.

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