In an attempt to lower crime rates, the Philadelphia City Council has passed a bill to ban ski masks in certain public areas, including but not limited to public parks and public transit.
With a 13-2 vote, the council voted in favor of the ban that is expected to go into effect next week. Under this bill, anyone wearing a ski mask at or inside of: public parks, city-owned buildings, schools, or public transit, will be fined a minimum of $250. The maximum fine, inflicted if the individual was wearing said ski mask while committing a crime, is up to $2,000.
The council believes this bill could seriously cut down the crime rates in the city, despite the backlash from local residents and activists. Activists claim that this bill gives police more reason to unnecessarily target individuals, with some even concerned over the constitutionality of it. Steve Loney, the senior supervising attorney at the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said: “we’ve seen situations where just the knowledge that face coverings are banned in a place can still chill First Amendment activities.”
Others are simply concerned with the level of criminalization this ban brings to a piece of clothing; council member Kendra Brooks took to X to say: “Today I voted against this bill to ban ski masks in public spaces. I cannot in good conscience vote to further criminalize Black and brown young people in our city.” Solomon Furious Worlds, member of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Pennsylvania, is skeptical of the effects the ban will truly have on crime.
Worlds believes that the ban will instead “disproportionately target young men of color. This ordinance is specifically made to try and authorize the Philadelphia police to authorize unlawful and unconstitutional stops.” Worlds also said that if the city truly wanted to lower crime rates, they would focus on more useful outlets such as mental health services and housing – “things that could actually deter criminal activity.”
Citing multiple violent crimes that involved the assailant wearing a ski mask in the bill, the city council feels the ban is justified. City council member Anthony Phillips told the public that: “The City of Philadelphia has been under siege with individuals who use ski masks to commit crimes. It’s caught onto not just young people, but young adults who have made this a particular thing to do. The Philadelphia Police Department can’t tell who’s a criminal and not a criminal, which makes it difficult for crimes to be solved in Philadelphia.”
Phillips, in clear support of the bill, also said that it is “balanced and thoughtful,” with amendments to the rules for situations such as work safety, performance art or activity in inclement weather.
With Philly following after the Southeastern PA Transportation Authority banning ski masks on their services, it seems that city-owned spaces and buildings will be next on the list. Watch out with your cold weather fashion choices this winter and avoid catching a $250+ fine.