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Surge in local criminals donning facial coverings

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Posted at 4:26 PM, Apr 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-16 19:29:51-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - These days, health-minded San Diegans aren't the only ones donning masks. So are criminals.

Poway. Easter Sunday. A woman with a facial covering is recorded casually walking up to a front door. Inside the home, Randy Howell and his wife are watching TV, unaware their packages had been delivered.

Quickly the woman scoops up the two packages and runs to a waiting car, before they drive off. Inside the packages are plant fertilizer.

"You feel violated, feel ripped off. It's not a good feeling, and you feel very insecure," said Howell.

Howell feels Insecure, in part, because of how little the thief stands out during the pandemic.

"Used to be that wearing a mask meant an intent to rob someone. Now, it's normal. People trying to stay healthy," said Howell.

In the past weeks, more and more criminals have been preying on the 'new normal.'

A family sent 10news video of a man with a facial covering peering into a porch in Escondido early Wednesday morning.

After a few moments, he grabs a bike and takes off. That bike was a boy's birthday gift from his grandmother.

Also in Escondido, video posted on the Neighbors By Ring app shows a masked car prowler pulling on car door after car door.

Facial coverings appear to be the new uniform of the package thief. Posts on the Ring app show masked thieves, from El Cajon to Oceanside to Normal Heights.

"Criminals feel emboldened, because they can wear a mask and blend in - where before it would have raised suspicion,” said former El Cajon Police Officer Kevin LaChapelle

"It's hard to tell. You don't know if someone wearing a mask is a bad person or a thief at this point. No one knows," said Howell.