Dublin’s saggy pants law attracts media spotlight

Dublin has gained much attention for passing an amendment against sagging pants and skirts, joining two other Middle Georgia cities that already have similar laws on the books.

Dublin City Council approved the amendment to its public indecency ordinance at its Sept. 2 meeting. The amendment states that pants and skirts cannot be worn three inches below the hips showing skin or underwear.

Violators are subject to a $25 fine for the first offense and up to $200 for any subsequent offense, as well as the possibility of up to 40 hours of community service, according to the ordinance.

CNN, The Associated Press and various wire services picked up the story, which ran in print and web publications from Atlanta to Chandigarh, India. The publicity the city has garnered as a result has been a deterrent for sagging-pants wearers since it was passed, said Dublin Police Chief Wayne Cain.

In the first week after the amendment passed, police issued only one warning, and that person “seemed to be dressed very decent” when spotted later, Cain said.

Before the amendment was approved, some people were found to have about five to six inches of underwear showing, Cain said, eliciting complaints from members of the community.

“We appreciate that people are responding in a positive manner to the ordinance,” he said. “It’s not an attempt to dictate what people wear. It’s an attempt to make it a better place for everyone.”

Almost three years ago, Hawkinsville passed its own ordinance on the issue, believed to be the first city in Georgia to do so. The ordinance makes it “unlawful for any person to appear in any public place or in view of the public wearing pants or shorts below the waist, which expose the skin or undergarments.”

Offenders could face a $250 fine and 40 hours of community service for wearing their pants below the waist, all the way up to $500 or 80 hours of community service, said Jerry Murkerson, Hawkinsville’s city manager.

Since the ordinance was passed in October 2007 amid complaints from the public, several people have received citations and appeared in Municipal Court for wearing saggy pants, Murkerson said. He could not specify how many.

“We’re still enforcing it as we go forward,” Murkerson said. “We do not have near the complaints we had before we enacted the ordinance.”

With Dublin joining Hawkinsville among cities fighting against low-hanging pants, “I think it’ll take on in other cities,” Murkerson said.

Warner Robins also passed an indecent exposure ordinance in 2008, banning sagging pants that expose more than three inches of one’s underwear or skin, following a proposal to do so from Councilman John Williams.

Offenders could face fines of up to $500 or imprisonment of up to six months, according to the ordinance.

That proposal came after numerous complaints of indecent exposure in stores, restaurants, businesses and other public places. The sagging pants also make it easier for wearers to conceal stolen items, Williams said.

“Really, the country’s sick of it,” he said, noting saggy pants are widespread. “It’s so ridiculous.”

The Galleria in Centerville also has a rule that says pants must be worn at the waistline. The rule was added in the last six months, and it is something mall officials deal with often, according to a security guard there.

Last week, 22-year-old Demario High of Atlanta was shopping at The Galleria with a friend. High’s pants hung below his waist, but he also wore a long shirt.

High acknowledged that people may not want to see the underwear of those who wear low-waisted pants in public. When he wears them, he compensates with a long shirt, he said. However, he also felt law enforcement officials should not spend too much time on the issue.

“(There’s) more important stuff to be concerned about,” High said, such as making sure people are able to find jobs.

That way, he said, “we’ll have a reason to dress up.”

To contact writer Andrea Castillo, call 256-9751. Information from The Associated Press and Telegraph archives was used in this report.