The string of bank robberies in southern New Jersey over the last few weeks — with more expected, police say — would be enough of a problem to solve.
But it appears that law enforcement's biggest clue may become its biggest sticking point.
The man police say is behind the robberies has worn a black burqa — a full-body covering worn by some Muslim women — during the heists. And after the latest money grab at a Beneficial Bank in Audubon Wednesday, police and customers are saying the thief's disguise itself presents a problem.
Customer Alicia Manfredi told KYW-TV in Philadelphia that "using that form of a mask is extremely disrespectful" and takes advantage of tellers who might notice the disguised robber but suppress suspicion because they don't want to appear discriminatory.
"What are you supposed to do, what are you supposed to say?" she said. '''Take that off'? 'Let me see what's underneath that burqa'?'"
Police have a similar problem — striking a delicate balance between nabbing the crook while not profiling Muslims who wear burqas in banks.
"We're not going after or looking at profiling other people that are wearing Muslim attire," Detective Robert Ferris told KYW. "We're specifically looking for this one person."
The burqa-donned suspect got away on foot Wednesday after handing a teller a note demanding cash — but the dye pack exploded down the street, KYW reported. The Camden County Prosecutor's Office confirmed to TheBlaze that the suspect dropped the bag and got away with no money.
Police said they believe the same man is responsible for two other area bank robberies — one in Camden on Sept. 17 and the second in Audubon on Sept. 25. In all three cases the suspect was described as a light-skinned male dressed in a black robe and head covering, KYW reported.
Ferris told the station that the suspect doesn't seem to be wearing the burqa quite correctly.