Charlottetown convenience store forces shoppers to lower sweatshirt hoods

Published on March 19, 2014

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.

©Guardian photo by Brian McInnis

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.