One department store in Beverly Hills, California, has recently implemented a new rule: no masks allowed.
Fraser Ross, owner of the Kitson department store located in Beverly Hills, posted signs last Wednesday to inform shoppers that they would not be allowed to wear a mask in the store because of recent spikes in crime.
Ross also issued the following public statement to explain the decision:
At Kitson we prioritize the safety of our staff and customers. We noticed a disturbing trend of individuals wearing masks to avoid identification in various situations including, but not limited to, shoplifting, verbal harassment, and physical assault. The mask mandate may have begun as a health precaution, but we believe it is now being used by some people for nefarious purposes. To that end, we enacted our own mandate of sorts. We do not allow wearing of masks in the Robertson store during regular business hours. Those people who wish to wear masks are free to set up an appointment for a personal shopping experience or visit our website. We also offer curbside pickup.
Ross and other store employees insisted that the move was not motivated by politics or health concerns, but rather by recent instances of violent crime in the area — and in their own store.
NBC4 Los Angeles reported that a Chanel store around the corner from Kitson had been robbed back in July, and CBSLA claimed someone broke into a nearby Neiman Marcus store using a car just a couple weeks ago.
As Ross's statement suggests, Kitson has had its own share of violent criminals, who have allegedly committed "shoplifting, verbal harassment, and physical assault" in the store, all under the relative anonymity of a face mask.
Employee Santos Hemenway echoed Ross's concerns.
"This is not something we wanted to do," Hemenway said, "but it’s what we have to do to keep the safety of our employees and our assets."
"You have to have the awareness and understand the motivation, or at least the signs of somebody who is planning to steal,” he continued. “I used to be able to be a little more lax, but now, you know, I’ve got to be on all guards. It’s definitely changed in the last year so."
Hemenway also claimed that the store is adequately furnished with guards and security cameras, but that face masks obscure people's identities, rendering these security measures essentially useless.
The mask "covers their face," Hemenway said, "the most important part of their face that we need to use when showing the police."
This new policy at Kitson diverges dramatically from the recent sentiment of many local government officials. Over the summer, LA county had strongly considered re-imposing mask mandates, but ultimately decided against it after several municipalities stated that they wouldn't comply.
LA district attorney George Gascón, who just survived another recall attempt earlier this month, has been accused of being soft on crime. Some say that his policies are directly responsible for the uptick in violent crime.