Thursday, September 4, 2008

Hoodies get heave-ho by mall fashion police

A SHOPPING centre has banned hooded sweatshirts and hats for fear young criminals are using them to hide from security cameras.

The ban, in the shopping centre at Tweed Heads on the New South Wales coast, is believed to be the first of its kind in Australia.

Signs have been in place at Tweed City shopping centre for the past three weeks warning that hoodies and hats will be banned after 6pm on Thursdays.

Centre management said the trial ban on headwear was prompted by friction between security guards and local youths.

Shopping centre spokesman Michael Tree said the trial was about behaviour rather than dress.

"We haven't been walking around targeting people," he said.

"It was a focus on behaviour rather than on clothing."

Management and police say some troublemakers know where security cameras are and hide their faces from them.

"It was all about disguising your appearance to the security cameras," Mr Tree said.

"It's exactly the same as banks put a picture of a motorcycle helmet with a line through it on their front door. You just take your helmet off when you walk in there."

He could not say whether the ban would become permanent.

"Our review at the moment hasn't shown any marked change in behaviours or attendance in the centre," Mr Tree said.

Tweed Heads police said the shopping centre owners were within their rights to impose a dress code.

Superintendent Michael Kenney compared it to school dress codes or requests at service stations to remove helmets before entry.

He said the trial was "due to the hood covering the face and those people causing fear to the shoppers within the complex, and the inability of CCTV (cameras) to identify".

The idea of banning hoodies, a favoured garment of youths but often associated with gang culture, has been floated in Australia before.

Queensland retailers called for a ban in 2005, with National Retailers Association spokesman Allan Pidgeon saying then: “If banning them seemed to be a long-term workable strategy in the UK then it is something you'd have to look at.”

But Queensland Police Minister Judy Spence said officers would not target people wearing hoodies because “Queensland police are not the fashion police”.

Hoodies and other head coverings have been banned in many places in the UK.

A South London shopping centre said it had enjoyed a 50 per cent reduction in crime anda 20 per cent increase in visitors after it banned hoodies in 2005.

But youth advocates say banning hoodies would alienate youths and reduce their sense of identity.

"It's very controlling and frustrating for young people," said youth outreach worker Dhercoj Shamoo after hoodies were banned from Britain's largest shopping centre, the Bluewater in Kent, in 2005.

NSW Youth Action and Policy Association executive officer Rey Reodica said a permanent ban targeting young people would be discriminatory.
"Being able to access a shopping centre is important to young people," Mr Reodica said.
"Young people, whatever they're wearing, should be able to congregate there.
"We'd support the shopping centre being able to work with young people in trying to deal with the issues collaboratively."


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