In response to recent acts of violence on the system, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) has announced a policy against wearing ski masks and similar face coverings that conceal identities on its buses, trains, and subways. This measure is designed to deter crime and improve safety for passengers.
SEPTA spokesperson Andrew Busch confirmed the policy, noting that it's not a new concept for transit police to take such action during their patrols. However, a novel element is the proactive engagement by SEPTA police officers, who will now request individuals wearing ski masks or similar coverings to remove them. In cases where individuals refuse to comply, they will be escorted off SEPTA property. Enforcement of this policy is solely the responsibility of SEPTA Police, with no other employees being asked to enforce it.
The policy does not affect individuals who wear face masks for health reasons, those wearing hoods, or those with religious coverings such as hijabs. SEPTA has emphasized that body-worn cameras by transit police officers will serve as a safeguard against potential harassment or racial profiling concerns. The transit department regularly audits this footage and reviews complaints filed against police.
This decision comes against the backdrop of increased violent crime at SEPTA facilities since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ski masks and balaclavas have become common forms of masking during this period. Such coverings, Busch noted, can embolden perpetrators of serious crimes by making them harder to identify.
One of the incidents prompting this policy change involved a shooting on a Route 33 bus on May 17, where two men were injured. The shooter, who was wearing a ski mask, managed to escape and has not yet been apprehended. Another incident occurred on May 31, when a 15-year-old boy was fatally shot on a Route 23 bus. Surveillance footage showed a suspect wearing a black face mask with a hood over his head.
Over the past year, SEPTA has implemented various crime-fighting measures, including assigning more officers to patrol the city's two subway lines and testing a gun detection system using artificial intelligence. The transit police also have a new chief, Charles Lawson, who was promoted this month.
The city is currently offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction of the suspect in the May 31 shooting.
A man was recently shot on a subway platform in Center City, Philadelphia, part of the city's SEPTA transit system, and is currently in stable condition at Jefferson University Hospital.
The latest shooting incident took place late on a Monday evening, around 11:39 p.m., on the westbound platform of the Market-Frankford Line at the intersection of 15th and Market Streets. Upon arrival, law enforcement found no trace of the shooter. An image of a suspect wanted in connection with the shooting was subsequently released by the SEPTA police.
According to witnesses, there were numerous young individuals, approximately 20–25, engaging in unruly behavior on the platform during the time of the shooting. The scene escalated quickly, with verbal conflicts, threats of physical altercations, and eventually, the discharge of a firearm.