Pikeville, Tenn., buckles down on saggy pants

photo Phil Cagle

The city of Pikeville, Tenn., doesn't want its residents to be caught with their pants down.

The City Council unanimously approved an ordinance on its first reading Monday night that would require anyone guilty of public indecency, which includes anyone wearing their bottoms "more than three inches below the top of the hips (crest of the ilium)," to pay a fine of "not less than" $25 for a first offense and "not more than" $50 on the subsequent offenses.

Pikeville's city charter requires three readings of an ordinance before it passes, and city Mayor Phil Cagle said it would probably be another couple of months before they're able to put the law into effect.

The ordinance language is aimed at public indecency in general, and says that although state law prohibits some public indecency, it "allows for some behavior that is considered indecent."

According to the ordinance, the city of Pikeville finds "the exposure of a person's buttocks and genital area or undergarments is offensive and indecent."

But Cagle said he doesn't want the new ordinance to be seen as singling out the problem of "sagging britches."

"Myself and the City Council, we wanted an ordinance passed in black and white that our officers know what to tolerate and what not to tolerate," Cagle said. "Now they know what we expect, and they know how to handle it."

However, aside from some wording, the main difference between the city ordinance and state law was the inclusion of language outlawing the exposure of "skin or undergarments" by wearing "pants or skirts" too low.

Other offenses listed include lewd and sexual acts, publicly relieving oneself and indecent exposure of body parts.

Pikeville's ordinance also states that "there is evidence that indicates that wearing sagging pants is injurious to the health of the wearer as it causes improper gait."

Pikeville city attorney and Judge Ed Boring could not be reached for comment on the proposed legislation.

Legislation with nearly identical wording has been passed in several Georgia and Mississippi municipalities, and the Alabama legislature passed a bill in early 2012 that applied only to Montgomery County and called for a fine of up to $100 for juveniles and $150 for adults if they're caught wearing saggy pants.

Likewise, the Tennessee General Assembly passed legislation in 2012 to prohibit saggy pants, or "indecent exposure," in schools, with punishment to be decided by individual school districts.

Cagle said that before proposing the local public indecency legislation, the city had abided by the state's public indecency laws. However, Cagle said that he did not know what the state's law said, so he couldn't explain how the ordinance was different.

"All I know is we just don't want them running around half naked on our streets," Cagle said. "That's the bottom line."

Contact staff writer Alex Harris at aharris@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592.