In Pine Lawn â€¦ It's pull up or pay upSTLTODAY LINK
By Denise Hollinshed
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
PINE LAWN â€” Police Chief Rickey Collins says the day of reckoning is coming soon for those who violate Pine Lawn's ban on sagging pants.
So far, no one has been ticketed for violating the ordinance, which was enacted in November. City officials wanted a grace period in which officers could explain the ban to youths. And, Collins noted, many of the violations are hidden by coats in cold weather.
That grace period will be ending as it warms up.
"This summer it will be fully in force by the officers," Collins said. "We are not going to have a sagging pants task force, but we are going to be vigilant on enforcing it."
Collins said his 19 full-time officers have explained what was behind the ordinance, including how saggy pants could hurt someone's chances of getting a job.
Collins, seated at his desk sporting a sharply creased gray Stetson and a crisp striped shirt and tie, said he snapped a picture of one youth's lowered pants from behind, then showed it to him.
"I said, 'Now don't he look stupid,'" Collins said. The boy, laughing, replied, "Yeah," Collins said.
Mayor Sylvester Caldwell said he thinks the ordinance is having an impact even before its enforcement.
"Right now, I can say they are pulling them up in Pine Lawn," Caldwell said.
He said the citizens of Pine Lawn like the ordinance, and, "Whatever makes them happy makes me happy."
But a reporter driving around Pine Lawn recently saw a lot of evidence to contradict Caldwell.
Several youths passed in front of police cars with their pants sagging. For many, their underwear or skin was not exposed, so technically they were not violating the ordinance.
But Calvin Hayes, 20, of Pine Lawn, was definitely in violation as he rocked down Jennings Station Road, his black sagging jeans with a bottle of water weighing down one pocket and a chain dangling from the other. His underwear was clearly visible.
Hayes was aware of the ordinance but unconcerned about it.
"Until the law stops me, I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing," Hayes said. "It's not going to cause me to change the way I dress."
John Woods, 19, of St. Louis, was wearing his pants so low that he was wobbling as he walked into a BP service station to pay for gasoline.
He, too, was aware of the law.
"I think it's crazy," said Woods, who was visiting his mother in Pine Lawn. "I don't see why people can't wear their clothes how they want to wear them. I spend my money on the clothes so I should be able to wear them how I want to wear them. That's the way I feel."
He called the $100 fine out of line.
"I think they feel like it's gang affiliation, but it's not," he said.
Another apparent violator, Austin Johnson, 20, of Pine Lawn, was interviewed as he and two companions entered a grocery. He said the police should focus on serious crime.
"There's drug dealing and fighting here, and you are stopping people for sagging, and you got people out here shooting each other," Johnson said. "That's just a waste of time."
The ordinance calls for fines of up to $100 for those 17 and older who wear pants below the waist that expose underwear or skin. That includes girls whose low-rise jeans sit too low. Parents of those 16 and under face up to a $500 fine or 90 days in jail if they knowingly allow their children to wear pants in such a manner.
Pine Lawn drew national attention when it enacted the ban. Officials said then that a big reason for it was that saggy pants gave potential developers a bad impression of the city. Caldwell said he's also interested in restoring some family values.
"When I was coming up as a shorty here in Pine Lawn back in the '60s, my grandmother always told me, 'Boy, you better pull those britches up or I'm going to get that switch on you.' I was taught like that. I just think you got kids raising kids now. Where are the values?"
He has a supporter in Lavera Fowler, 56, a grandmother of five and Pine Lawn resident for 28 years. Her husband, Charles E. James, was an undercover police officer in Pine Lawn when he was killed in a drug raid in 1983. Fowler described the ordinance as "very appropriate."
"You talk about indecency and you talk about rape and indecent exposure, and this is a prime example," she said. "Even nowadays, some of the younger girls are sagging, which I think is very indecent."
Brodis Hall, 57, of Jennings, applauded the law and said he has seen young mothers with their toddlers in sagging jeans pinned to diapers.
"They are too small for you to make them sag like that," Hall said. "I just laughed, and then I thought about how pitiful it was. It is funny until you think about what's going on. They think it's cute."firstname.lastname@example.org