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"Our City is Under Siege" Philadelphia Places Ban on Ski Masks

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By Dewey Olson - - 5 Mins Read
A man wearing a balaclava; dark background
Wearing a balaclava | FOTOKITA/Shutterstock

The recently approved legislation by the Philadelphia City Council brings about a ban on the use of ski masks and balaclavas in several public spaces, aiming to promote public safety.


The legislation passed by the Philadelphia City Council includes the comprehensive Philadelphia ski mask law, which prohibits the wearing of ski masks and balaclavas in various public settings.


Locations affected by the ban comprise daycare facilities, schools, parks, recreation centers, public transportation, and municipal buildings.


Offenders may face a fine of $250, while those involved in criminal activities while wearing these masks can face fines of up to $2,000.


Exceptions within the bill have been made for religious purposes and "First Amendment activities." It is important to note that the legislation received approval through a 13-2 vote in the City Council and is currently awaiting final approval from Mayor Jim Kenny.


According to Councilman Phillips, a significant number of crimes in Philadelphia are committed by individuals wearing ski masks.


In an effort to assist the police department in solving such cases, this ban has been imposed. Highlighting concerns voiced by the Philadelphia Police Department.


"What I've heard from the Philadelphia Police Department is that right now our city is under siege," The Councilman said, according to ABC 6.


Supporting the ban, another lawmaker Isaiah Thomas emphasizes that the concealed identities of criminals hold greater weight than the fashion appeal of wearing ski masks.


Encouraging the youth, Thomas stresses the importance of desisting from wearing such "jawns."


However, Councilwoman Jamie Gauthier, who voted against the bill, advocates for increased support for black men rather than enhanced scrutiny.


Gauthier expressed her stance during an NBC 10 session, stating that the city should prioritize support over severe enforcement measures that may not align with the Constitution.

Young people wear ski masks while posing with a car
Young people wearing ski masks | LexScope/Unsplash


Similar to Gauthier, Councilwoman Kendra Brooks opposes the ban, arguing that it may lead to further victimization.


Brooks believes that legislating for a specific group of people without comprehending the potentially detrimental consequences is a matter of concern.

Impact on Crime-Solving Efforts

In May 2023, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) independently implemented a ski mask ban on their public transit system.


Passengers are required to remove these masks when travelling; otherwise, they risk being escorted off the premises.


Chief Charles Lawson of SEPTA Transit Police emphasizes, "If you come on SEPTA property wearing your shiesty, you will be engaged by police. So I want you to think about it."


While not every person wearing a ski mask will receive a citation, officers are granted authority to intervene preemptively whenever they observe someone wearing a mask to prevent potential incidents.


Moreover, the focus remains on reasonable suspicion of criminal activity or violation before taking action.


However, critics who voted against the bill argue that it exacerbates the criminalization and marginalization of young black men.


Council members Gauthier and Brooks highlight their concerns on platforms like X, formerly known as Twitter, stating they cannot support further measures that perpetuate these issues.