South Florida Thieves Capitalizing on New Mask-Wearing Norm

Crime victims and police face new hurdle with COVID-19 masks

NBC Universal, Inc.

What to Know

  • Surveillance footage captured the moment masked men tried forcing their way into a South Florida home by gunpoint
  • The crime highlights a new challenge for police during the COVID-19 pandemic: how to find bad guys when everyone is wearing a mask
  • Police say victims should rely on identifying eyes, ears and hands

Home surveillance video shows frightening images of masked men with guns trying to force their way into a South Florida home with the terrified residents just feet away.

The scary video is highlighting what is a new challenge for crime victims and police during the COVID-19 pandemic: how to find the bad guys when everyone is wearing a mask.

Police say it’s why you need to have a sharper eye out than ever before.

The video shows the moments one Broward County man, who doesn't want to be identified, didn’t know if he’d survive. Two men wearing masks are seen pointing guns at him in his driveway.

The victim said the suspects were looking to force their way inside where his family was located.

"Both guys have guns and they want to come inside my house. I’m afraid man, I’ve never had that happen to me like that. Nobody put the gun to my face," the victim said.

Fortunately, he was able quickly close his door while noises he heard made him believe that one of the men tried to fire his gun, but something malfunctioned.

"I closed the door fast. He tried to shoot me, the one guy,” the victim said.

Figuring out who the men are won’t be easy.

"He had the mask in the front,” the victim said. "The surgical mask, you know."

How often should you wash your mask? And what’s the best way to clean it? Nurse Alice Benjamin shares some best practices for wearing face masks.

The mask many are wearing for protection from COVID-19, these two had on for another reason.

“Obviously, when the people are wearing masks it presents issues for the victims and witnesses," Broward Sheriff's Office Detective Keith Rosen said.

Rosen is trying to find out who terrorized the man and his family. He says the fact that everyone has on a mask now is only the beginning of the trouble.

"Prior to the pandemic you saw someone wearing a mask, that would raise your suspicions. Now it’s very common,” Rosen said.

It's one reason the victim didn’t pay much attention when the pair first came up his driveway. That quickly changed and for him it was too late.

"The guys come in and put the gun in my face and put me on the floor. He asked for cash. 'Where’s the cash? Where’s the cash?'" the victim said.

Without his wallet, they allowed him to get up and open the door. The pair was planning to get inside but the victim made his move to rush in and lock the door.

"We have to resort to different investigative techniques to try and identify different suspects,” Rosen said.

BSO detectives are working three cases where masks are used as cover. Unable to rely on photo line-ups, Rosen said that faced with the situation you should look at the eyes, ears and the hands, and for distinguishing features that stand out.
“Tattoos, scars, marks, accents are big too. Look for the hands, try to look for the neck depending on the style of the mask, the eyes, the nose, the ears,” Rosen said.

The victim was able to determine the suspects' race, and the size and approximate age of one gunman.

As with many crimes, a slip-up can be the break police need. Miramar police said they’re also investigating an alleged car burglar who had a mask, but just didn’t put it all the way on.

Contact Us