California Retailer Blames Rising Crime For New No-Mask Policy

Even as the latest COVID-19 variants continue to spread and many public health officials continue to recommend wearing face masks in public, one department store in Beverly Hills, California, is taking the opposite approach.

According to a sign posted to the door of the Kitson store last week, shoppers are no longer permitted to enter the location with masks on, though the new policy reportedly has nothing to do with pandemic-related politics. Instead, owner Fraser Ross said the move was necessary to protect his assets as well as the safety of his staff and customers.

Crime has been rising in communities across the nation, including ritzy Beverly Hills, and Ross said that too many thieves were using the prevalence of masks to obscure their faces while making off with stolen goods from his store.

In a statement that accompanied his recently revised mask policy, he noted that the store experienced “a disturbing trend of individuals wearing masks to avoid identification in various situations including, but not limited to, shoplifting, verbal harassment, and physical assaults.”

While he acknowledged that face mask mandates “may have begun as a health precaution,” the current situation proves that such rules are now resulting in serious negative consequences.

“To that end, we enacted our own mandate of sorts,” the owner said. “We do not allow wearing of masks in the Robertson store during regular business hours.”

In order to accommodate those customers who wish to wear a face mask while shopping, Ross noted that such patrons “are free to set up an appointment for a personal shopping experience or visit our website,” noting that the store also offers a no-contact curbside pickup service.

One employee explained that the no-mask policy has become necessary amid an ongoing crime wave.

As Santos Hemenway explained: “You have to have the awareness and understand the motivation, or at least the signs of somebody who is planning to steal. I used to be able to be a little more lax, but now, you know, I’ve got to be on all guards.”

While Kitson hopes this step will help combat crime, other retailers around the state and across the country have been forced to take even more drastic measures.

Late last year, for example, Walgreens opted to close five of its locations around San Francisco due to a troubling uptick in brazen acts of theft.