Charlottetown convenience store forces shoppers to lower sweatshirt hoods

Doug Gallant
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A woman enters the Needs convenience store on the corner of Euston and Weymouth Streets in Charlottetown Tuesday. The store has put a sign on the door telling people to remove hoodies before entering the establishment.

No shoes, no shirt, no service.

Everyone has seen signs like that in restaurants, grocery stores and other retail operations.

But a Charlottetown convenience store that's been robbed several times in recent years has become one of the first businesses in the province to institute a policy on the wearing of hoodies.

The Needs Convenience store on Euston Street has posted a sign advising people wearing hooded sweatshirts to lower their hoods before entering the premises.

Given that video posted by police of several recent robberies and thefts in the city has depicted people trying to shield their faces from video surveillance with the hoods of their sweatshirts the Needs policy is hardly surprising.

Charlottetown Deputy Police Chief Gary McGuigan said he would not be surprised to see more businesses adopt a similar policy on hoodies.

"It's something new for Charlottetown but it's quite common in other places," McGuigan said. "If you go across the border into the United States for example they will ask you to remove your ball cap, your hoodie, your sunglasses, or anything else that might conceal your face."

A growing number of retail businesses in Canada have adopted similar policies, as have businesses in the United States, the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, France, Belgium and other countries.

Some groups have suggested the policy is discriminatory but those in retail say it is a public safety and security issue.

McGuigan said there are good reasons for it.

"In one of our robberies a year or so ago here the robber actually concealed his identity by cutting two eyeholes in the hood of his hoodie and then put his hoodie on backwards before entering the store to rob it."

He said that it can be very intimidating for bank tellers, clerks and others who deal with the public to have someone enter their place of business with their face concealed.

"When you can't see their eyes, can't see their face, it makes you very nervous," McGuigan said.

The deputy police chief said police agencies in other places have expressed support for the program because they've had great success with it.

He noted that in some places in the world the ban does not just cover hoodies.

"They can include baseball caps, sun glasses, balaclavas, anything people can use to conceal their identity."

McGuigan stresses that the bans have nothing to do with fashion and everything to do with security.

"They're not trying to target any specific group with bans like this," McGuigan said. "It's not about fashion. It's about an article of clothing used by some people with criminal intentions."

Some people may not appreciate policies like this but he says people should expect to see this happen more often.

"You could see more of this. There is no reasonable expectation of privacy when you go into a business. There are security cameras everywhere. If a business deems it's necessary for security reasons they can do it."

McGuigan noted that in some places bans on wearing hoodies with the hoods up have been extended to include schools and clubs.

Citadel High School in Halifax is one of the schools to introduce a police on hoodies.

Hoodies are still allowed, but hoods must be lowered.

Sgt. Andrew Blackadar, community policing and media relations officer with the RCMP for P.E.I., said he has not seen any of the signage here advising people to lower their hoods when entering stores or other businesses but he's not surprised by it either.

Blackadar said retailers have taken a number of measures in recent years to minimize losses due to theft.

"A number of places, for example, have signs posted that say no backpacks and require you to check your backpack at the front of the store," Blackadar noted.

He said that at least one liquor store he was aware of sets off a flash when people enter to make them look up.

"And when you look up your image is captured by surveillance cameras."

Blackadar said the RCMP has not gone out into the community and asked businesses to implement a policy on hoodies but he thinks it's a good policy.

He too noted that policies designed to prevent people from concealing their identities are not entirely new.

'We see them all the time at Halloween. There are always signs asking people in costume to lower their masks if they enter a store or a restaurant, Blackadar said.

Some establishments in the U.K. have had rules regarding hoodies since 2004.

The company which operates the UK's largest shopping centre, says it has actually seen visitor numbers rise by nearly 25 per cent since banning "hoodies" because some shoppers were intimidated by groups of young people wearing hoodies and would steer clear of the mall.

Inquiries made to the Needs Convenience store about the new policy were referred to Sobeys headquarters in Stellarton.

The company has yet to comment.

Organizations: RCMP, Sobeys

Geographic location: Charlottetown, United States, Euston Street Canada Australia New Zealand France Belgium U.K. Halifax Stellarton

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Recent comments

  • Islander
    March 21, 2014 - 07:27

    I think anyone coming in to do business should have their face visible. I have heard from clerks at service stations how when snowmobilers come in with helmets on it is intimidating as you do not know who is under that helmet .Take the helmets off pull down the hoodies show your face if you want someone to serve you.

  • A c-store employee
    March 20, 2014 - 08:56

    This isn't the first time it's been done. I've had in in my windows at my stores before. It's not that big a deal

  • Ironworkermg
    March 19, 2014 - 22:16

    I wonder can these store owners make people of middle eastern descent take of the black robes that cover their face too when entering places of business. We are living is communist country we are second class citizens ,this is no different than that useless gun registry we used to have, same principal behind it

  • I agree but take it further
    March 19, 2014 - 13:57

    I agree with this policy, but take it further... not just this business, but all businesses.... "if your face isn't visible, go elsewhere "... THAT should be the standard... (IMO)

  • Just Wondering
    March 19, 2014 - 12:24

    I agree with the policy. Take off or lower those hoodies. Some dumbasses wear those stupid-looking things in the heat of the summer.

  • moe szyslak
    March 19, 2014 - 11:57

    people are foolish with making rules like this, does anyone really think the criminal is going to listen to something so silly??? Sir, please lower your hood or you can't be in here. This puts me in mind of the law that was made years ago with the gun registry. When did anybody ever hear of a criminal registering their gun before they went to use it illegally. This is just an example on a different scale btw. If someone is going to rob the store I'm sure they're not going to listen to the clerk telling them to lower the hood or leave. It's only the law abiding citizens who listen to these laws anyway so what's the point, how do they enforce this policy? Is Apu behind the counter with a sawed off???? News flash, the robber isn't there to shop!!!

  • Al Capone
    March 19, 2014 - 11:45

    A better solution would be to put up a sign that says "No Armed Robbers or Shoplifters allowed". If they think someone who has already decided to rob the store is not going to wear a mask because of a sign on the door is just as silly. Not sure why this is news as I saw the same sign on other stores in town long ago.

  • Quiet Observer
    March 19, 2014 - 11:01

    I am all in support of this. And patrons are not forced to do anything other than make a choice of where they want to shop.

  • Heather Scott
    March 19, 2014 - 10:34

    This is not a new trend. I worked for the liquor commission for years at the store downtown. When we went from behind the counter to self serve, we asked customers to leave their gym bags/ parcels with the cashier and asked them to remove their hoods. It is a matter of safety.

  • don
    March 19, 2014 - 10:34

    i can agree fully with everything but your sunglasses may be reg glass's that you need to read etc and are self tinting the way this reads you must remove them. what about your rights to be able to read and see? this could be fun i for one need my glass's to read but i also have a pair of tinted glass's and if i walk into a store wearing them on a sunny day you telling me i MUST remove them? if i do then the staff better be ready to read anything i need.

    • I agree but take it further
      March 19, 2014 - 15:24

      Do what I do... remove shade sand swap for reading glasses.. then back again. I do it 20 times a day if necessary... takes all or two (2) seconds...

  • Dear Guardian
    March 19, 2014 - 04:14

    Could your headline "Charlottetown convenience store forces shoppers to lower sweatshirt hoods" be anymore dramatic? The store is not "forcing" patrons to remove the hoods, they have a choice. If they wish to be in the store, they must lower them. If they don't wish to, then let them shop somewhere else. Big deal! You make it sound like the hoodie wearers are losing their gosh-given rights to wear hoodies. This is a safety issue and seriously, I hope more businesses follow suit.

    • citizen
      March 19, 2014 - 07:15

      I couldn't have said it any better. It's a safety issue. Period. End of discussion. If they want to keep their faces concealed, they are totally free to go elsewhere to shop. They aren't being "forced" to do anything. I hope all stores adopt this policy. There's absolutely no good reason why they need their faces concealed (unless they're planning to rob the place!)

    • huh
      March 19, 2014 - 09:42

      I don't share your interpretation of the headline at all. As per your own post: "If they wish to be in the store, they must lower them". So, yes, they are forcing patrons to remove their hoods.