The Kitson boutique in Beverly Hills, California, is making a major change to their store policy — banning masks, not for political reasons, but to protect its employees.
The owner of the boutique, Fraser Ross, has revealed that the new rule came as the result of skyrocketing crime in the area, according to reporting from local news station KNBC-TV.
Ross released a statement regarding the rule change, pointing to a “disturbing trend” of criminals taking advantage of mask-wearing in order to obscure their identities.
“At Kitson we prioritized the safety of our staff and customers,” the statement read. “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,” Ross’ statement continued.
High-end stores in the affluent area have recently been targeted with crimes ranging from petty shoplifting to brazen smash-and-grab robberies.
Local news station KCBS-TV reported that a Neiman Marcus outlet near the boutique had its glass doors and metal gates destroyed by thieves who rammed them with a car on the morning of August 13 and reportedly stole several Chanel bags.
One employee of the Kitson boutique, Santos Hemenway, spoke out in support of his employer’s decision.
“I used to be able to be a little more lax, but now I’ve got to be on guard,” he told KTLA-TV. “It’s definitely changed in the last year or so.”
“It’s not something we wanted to do, but it’s what we have to do to keep the safety of our employees and our assets,” Hemenway explained to KTTV-TV.
“Especially in the last few weeks, we’ve had multiple events where people have come in using masks and have chosen to steal or try to steal assets from our store, which is very unfortunate,” he added.
As of Thursday, Los Angeles County does not have an indoor mask mandate in place, though the county has hinted that it may reinstate mask requirements. Beverly Hills preemptively announced last month that it would not be enforcing a renewed mandate, with Mayor Lili Bosse stating: “I very much believe in the power of choice.”
— Brian Kilmeade (@kilmeade) July 28, 2022
According to KTLA, Ross has confirmed that Kitson customers who still wish to wear a mask while shopping at his boutique can call ahead and set up an appointment to do so.