'Pants on the ground' ordinance moving forward

ALBANY, Ga. -- City Commissioners received their first look at a draft ordinance Tuesday that would regulate, among other things, how saggy a person could wear his or her pants.

If adopted at the commission's Nov. 23, meeting, the ordinance would replace the outdated "Defacation in Public" ordinance and replace it with a "Public Indecency Prohibited" statute.

According to the draft presented Tuesday, the ordinance would ban anyone from performing certain acts where "a person should reasonably expect to be in view of the public," including:

An actual or simulated act of sexual intercourse or masturbation; exposure of the genitals; a lewd appearance in a state of partial or complete nudity; a lewd caress or indecent fondling of the sexual organs of any person, including oneself; or urination or defecation.

But it's the last item on the list that was the genesis for the commission discussion: (anyone in public who) "appears wearing pants or skirts more than three inches below the top of the hips exposing the skin or undergarments."

Commissioner Tommie Postell, who originated the discussion, said the issue of "saggy pants" is connected with a general degradation of society and is indicative of a lack of respect, morals and decency and is a behavior that tends to creep into other aspects of life.

"This is something that has caused problems throughout the city, especially when we talk about lewdness and respect, and it's getting worse," Postell said.

The ordinance is patterned after one adopted in Dublin, but the reasoning behind each ordinance is slightly different.

In the Dublin ordinance, that middle-Georgia city's commission stated, "The city has received reports of sagging, baggy pants being used to facilitate theft crimes," and "there is evidence to indicate that wearing sagging pants is injurious to health of the wearer as it causes an improper gait."

The proposed local ordinance reasons that, "The city of Albany finds exposure of an individual's buttocks genital area or undergarments is lewd and indecent," and that the city "desires to respond to the adverse effects of such lewdness as to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the citizenry."

During discussion of the proposed ordinance Tuesday, Commissioner Jon Howard asked Albany Police Chief John Proctor the likelihood that the department will be able to enforce the ordinance if it passes.

"We can enforce it, but, as with every crime, we have to prioritize things," Proctor said. "Our Part 1 index crimes and property crimes -- the robberies, burglaries and assaults -- have to come first."

Proctor also suggested getting Albany State University and Darton College police officials involved in the discussion, as well as the local school system, given that they are the ones most likely to come in contact with offenders.

If found in violation, the offender will be fined, City Attorney Nathan Davis said.

Commissioner Dorothy Hubbard said there needs to be a public hearing on the matter before the city votes on it, to get input from the community and especially the parents of the children, "because these kids aren't buying the pants themselves."

That hearing will likely come at the city's night meeting this month on Oct. 26, with a formal vote on the ordinance to take place Nov. 23.