Six years after banishing men’s butts from public places, Opa-locka commissioners have decided to extend the rule to women.
City commissioners have tentatively approved an ordinance authorizing police to ticket women as well as men for wearing pants that expose any underwear or undergarments.
The original ordinance was passed in 2007, sponsored by Commissioner Timothy Holmes, banning sagging pants in city parks and buildings. While it did not explicitly focus on men, the ordinance was mainly focused on guys the commission felt were copying hip-hop culture. In 2010 the ordinance was amended to include any public place in the city.
Commissioner Dorothy Johnson sponsored the latest change, saying she was motivated by encounters with women in the city that she felt needed to improve their image. Johnson said she saw mainly young women walking around with their underwear showing, like many of the men the ban originally focused on, and receiving looks and comments from men in the city.
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“I heard a little boy say, ‘Mommy, pull your pants up, that man is looking at you,’ ” Johnson said. “Your son is telling you this, and she didn’t see anything wrong with it.”
Johnson says the image and branding of the city is important, and she hopes to expand the program with community feedback. She wants to have female police officers and community aides speak with women first, and then she will offer potential amendments to the ordinance in December.
“I don’t want people to be fined just to be fined, I want to flesh it out and have some town hall meetings,” Johnson said.
Violators now face a fine of $500, double the original amount, or 25 hours of community service. The sentence is determined, in a hearing, by the city’s code enforcement department and city magistrate Christopher Benjamin.
This year, 72 people have been given tickets for their pants hanging too low. The city’s next hearing is Nov. 19.
“I never wanted to try to put somebody’s child in jail,” Holmes said. “Even though, in my opinion, some of them need to go to jail with their pants down like that.”
Holmes said he has not heard a lot of complaints about the ban from citizens, although signs warning of the ordinance have been defaced with graffiti. He and Johnson want to expand the signs throughout the city and he thinks that future commissioners will keep the ban in place for years to come.
“This thing started in Opa-locka and it spread all over the world,” said Holmes, referring to similar bans in other cities. “They can try to stop it if they want to, but I don’t think it would ever happen.”