Philadelphia votes to ban ski masks to reduce crime. Opponents worry it will unfairly target some people

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Philadelphia City Council passed legislation to ban ski masks in some public places, a measure supporters say will increase public safety amid high violent crime, but opponents argue it would be a deterrent. will also unfairly target people without evidence of wrongdoing.

Legislation It passed on a 13-2 vote Thursday and now goes to Democratic Mayor Jim Kenney. A spokesperson said he would review the legislation and "look forward to our ongoing work with the City Council on the urgent matter of ensuring public safety."

The measure would ban ski masks or balaclavas in public places such as schools, recreation centers, parks, city-owned buildings and public transportation. It defines the garment as a close-fitting covering over the entire head, with holes only for the eyes, nose or mouth.

Anyone violating the law will be subject to a $250 fine. The exceptions are religious attire and protests.

The legislation comes as the nation's sixth-largest city is beset by violent crime, with a record number of murders in 2021, the majority of which were gun-related. That number fell from 562 to 516 in 2022, but was still higher than pre-pandemic levels, and advocates have said they are on track to drop even lower this year.

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Big cities across the country saw an increase in crime as social support decreased during the pandemic, although crime has increased started decreasing To pre-pandemic levels.

Philadelphia's move goes in the opposite direction to New York City, which relaxed its law banning masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2020, New York City repealed a more than a century-old law that banned face coverings in public. Its purpose was to allow mask wearing during the coronavirus outbreak. Supporters of the repeal said the former law also exposed black people to police harassment and was used against protesters during demonstrations.

Despite crime being low in the city, concerns about theft led Mayor Eric Adams, a former police officer, to suggest that store owners should refuse entry to anyone wearing a mask unless it was in the store. Do not turn down to be picked up by the camera.

Philadelphia's ban cites an increase in the number of people casually wearing ski masks during the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, as well as an increase in the number of individuals sought by Philadelphia police. Supporters say ski masks hide people's identities, making it harder for police to identify them. Messages were left for the bill's sponsor, Councilman Anthony Phillips.

But some progressive members of the council and the ACLU of Pennsylvania sharply opposed it, saying there is no evidence to support that ski masks cause or encourage crime.

"Giving police the authority to stop citizens without suspicion of illegal activity is unconstitutional," ACLU attorney Solomon Furious Worlds said in a statement.

The ban is part of a bigger puzzle Democrats are struggling with: Balancing accountability following protests against police brutality, while attempting to address community concerns about safety.

Newly elected Mayor Cheryl Parker won election with a tough approach on crime, vowing to bring hundreds of officers off the street embedded within communities.

He has been criticized for his stance that officers should use "reasonable suspicion" to stop people – which opponents feel controversially comes closer to stop-and-frisk tactics. he recently tapped Longtime Police Officer Kevin Bethel As their police commissioner, he said he had experience in restoring order while holding the police accountable.

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