- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Several businesses in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood have posted signs banning hoodies and face masks in order to deter crime.

Signs posted in the storefront windows of at least six different area businesses read, “Do not enter with hoodie or mask. If so you are now trespassing,” DNAInfo.com reported.

Shop owners say the signs are a way to deter theft, but some residents argue the signs are offensive.

“I’m tired of people of color being viewed as criminals for wearing hoodies,” said Andrew Padilla, who noticed signs in Washington Heights, DNAInfo reported. “If wearing a hoodie makes you a criminal, I should’ve been locked up years ago.”

Harlem resident Tyquan Haskins agreed.

“It makes me feel like they are targeting me,” he told DNAInfo. “Why are you targeting? I’ve been spending money here for five years, don’t you know me?”

Jose Abreu, the owner of Bravo Supermarket, said the sign does more good than harm, despite a wave of complaints he’s received from customers.

“It helps us know who is in the store,” Mr. Abreu said. “When people steal we check them on the camera so that next time they come in we know who they are.”

The mastermind behind the signs is Joe Stark, a Philadelphia man who said he has sold a couple thousand signs to businesses in New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore and D.C., DNAInfo reported.

“We’re trying to put robbers and shoplifters on notice,” he said. “When you get a guy walking into a store and he has a hood up, a mask up, it can be a scary thing.”

None of the six New York City businesses that have the signs have charged hoodie-wearing customers with trespassing, and it is unlikely they could even if they wanted to, according to local criminal attorney Charles Ross, DNAInfo reported.

“It boils down to whether this is a lawful order,” he said. “Can they make it unlawful [to enter] by saying that by entering with a hoodie or a mask you are trespassing? My sense is that it would not hold up in court.”

By Monday night, some stores had taken the signs down in response to community concerns, a local CBS affiliate reported.

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