A number of Harlem shops are sending a message to patrons stating that they are not allowed in their businesses while wearing hoodies or ski masks. Using signs to spread the warning, citizens are reacting by saying the signs are racially offensive.

DNAInfo reported on the new signs, which have been part of an ongoing campaign by a businessman who happens to live two hours south of the city. The businessman claims the signs are part of an effort to stamp out robbery and shoplifting in stores in the New York borough.

DNAInfo has more:

“DO NOT ENTER WITH HOODIE OR MASK” read signs posted on three businesses along Frederick Douglass Boulevard, between 126th and 129th streets, warning “IF SO YOU ARE NOW TRESPASSING.”

While businesses see them as a way to stop shoplifting, some residents say the signs are offensive.

“I’m tired of people of color being viewed as criminals for wearing hoodies,” said Andrew Padilla, who noticed signs around 160th Street and Amsterdam in Washington Heights. “If wearing a hoodies makes you a criminal I should’ve been locked up years ago.”

The mastermind behind the signs is Joe Stark, a Philadelphia man who said he is in the process of launching his own security company. He said the $10 signs are meant to be a form of crime prevention, not discrimination.

“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.”

Stark said he’s sold thousands of the sign and intends to take his message to stores in his native Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. The common thread among these cities are the high number of people of color who live in those respective locations. Stark claims he isn’t targeting people of color in his campaign, and said the only group that are complaining are “little thugs selling drugs in the corner.”

In a CBS New York news report, citizens say that the ban is unnecessary. One young woman was ousted from a store because both she and her baby wore hoodies.

One Harlem sign owner has even relaxed his stance, saying that the hoodie ban is “extreme” but the supports the no mask rule. Thus far, the store owners are happy with the signs according to the quotes in the report.

A local attorney has also said the sign has little legal weight, saying the store owners couldn’t charge sign violators with trespassing even if they wanted to. So far, none of the six businesses in Harlem displaying the sign have brought charges.

Photo: CBS New York

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