Dress Code Controversy

The responses to the crackdown on the dress code at Bonita Lakes Mall are about as diverse as the shoppers themselves.

"It's pretty good."

" I feel it's wrong!"

"I'm not hurting anybody, this is just the way I dress."

Those were just some of the responses we got from mall shoppers on the issue. As part of the dress code crackdown, caps worn to the back, bandanas, pants sagging below the waist and pant legs pulled above the ankles are not allowed.

"It's more than just sales being down. It's about safety and it's about appearance and perception," said Tommy White with marketing for the mall.

According to White, it's the fashions previously mentioned which many patrons associate with gangs, therefore causing them not to shop at the mall, especially on Friday and Saturday nights.

"Those that would come here and spend money did not feel comfortable doing so. There were too many people dressed like that in their way and quite frankly, they were intimidated," White said.

While some people may think the mall is a public facility, it is not. In fact, it is a private business property. According to its owners, the mall is designed for one purpose and that is to provide a convenient safe and attractive place for shopping, not for general socializing, recreation and just 'hanging out!'

Meanwhile, mall shoppers we talked to are expressing mixed reaction about the policy.

"That kind of dress really runs the business away. People just think of that image as being related to gangs and all too often that's what it attracts."

"I don't see any harm with the dress if that's all they're doing."

"Personally, I like to wear my hat like this. It doesn't mean I'm in a gang."

"I think some of the ways they are dressing kind of does imply that it could be gang-related."

"This is just one of the factors. People need a mind change. An attitude change."

Mall officials tell us no major incidences prompted the crackdown. They say this is just part of their ongoing effort to provide a safe, family atmosphere.

"Security for our shoppers and for our employees is our top priority and we just want everyone to feel safe and secure when they're here," said White.

The dress code at Bonita Lakes Mall is nothing new. In fact, mall officials say the "Consumer Courtesy Code," was first put into place when the mall opened in 1997.