To get your sub sandwich, buy that Slurpee or grab a pack of smokes at a store in Studio City or North Hollywood, you’ll have to remove your hat, tip back your hoodie or take off your motorcycle helmet, according to a plan proposed by Los Angeles police.
North Hollywood Patrol Division Commanding Officer Peter Whittingham announced the proposal to the Studio City Chamber of Commerce at a luncheon Thursday.
“This is an effective tool to help businesses be proactive in crime and perhaps alert them to anyone suspicious,” said Whittingham. The Oxnard Police said in a few specific businesses, they have seen that the presence of the signs had off-set criminal activity.
Under the plan for the North Hollywood Division businesses—which extends to to Toluca Lake, Universal City, Studio City and North Hollywood—a warning notice would be put in windows of stores. The sign has a sinister-looking guy with a goatee and chain around his neck in a hoodie and it says “PLEASE REMOVE Your Hat, Hoodie or Helmet before entering these premises.” It also cites the law—602.1(a) PC—which allows a business to refuse service to anyone.
In Oxnard, 40 miles north of Studio City, police Detective Martin Ennis has worked closely with businesses in their Crime-Free Business Program since 2007. His program involves much more than the hoodie-free sign, but even that simple element of the program works well, he said.
“We have seen effective results,” Ennis said. “We have a Circle K [convenience store] for example, that was plagued by gang members, and when these signs were put up, they either went in there with their hats off or they went elsewhere.”
There have been some minor issues with getting businesses to be on board with the idea, Ennis said (see separate story), but he said, “Once the business owners learn some of these simple techniques, they are completely on board with them.”
Whittingham said it’s not simply gang members who wear hoodies, and added, “It is common with gangs to wear them, but it is really anyone who has a criminal intent that doesn’t want their faces shown.”
Studio City Senior Lead Officer Mike Lewis of the LAPD said a recent robbery occurred at two of the sandwich shops in Studio City at different ends. “The guy was standing in line with his hoodie on and when it came to his turn, he pulled out a gun and got the money,” Lewis said. “We ended up getting him, he was arrested, but had this sign been in the window and he didn’t remove it then everyone would have been suspicious of him much earlier and maybe the robbery could have been prevented.”
Although Lewis points out that overall crime is significantly lower than it has been in decades, property crime continues to be an issue in Studio City. A rash of robberies has occurred in the shopping district along Ventura Boulevard, and car break-ins still continue around the area.
Chamber of Commerce past president Theresa Cameron expressed concern that someone may sue for discrimination if a person known by the businessperson is not asked to remove his hat, but someone else is not.
“It is simply a matter of letting people see you,” Whittingham said. “If someone refuses to cooperate, then perhaps you have a good suspicion that he is not there just to purchase something.” He also acknowledged that business owners may make exceptions for religious coverings.
"And although it is called the 'Hats Off to Crime,' we are not focusing on hats and caps as much as the hoodies, which have more of a covering," Whittingham said. "That is just the slogan of the program. We are trying to find a simple solution that will be easy for the business community to implement."
Candi Golding of the said she gets many customers coming in wearing hoodies and they have already asked everyone to refrain from wearing them—even when local residents like the or or come in. “I tell them I want to see what you look like—even the regular customers, even the celebrities. I tell them if I let you do it, then I have to let everyone do it. So far, everyone has complied.”
The next step is for Whittingham to discuss the proposal with other businesses and get feedback from groups such as the chamber of commerce. If there is enough support, a unified launch of the “Hats Off” program will be held, he said.
The plan will be closely watched by other Los Angeles Police divisions and, if it's successful, it may be implemented within their territories, Whittingham said.