Local pushes for stricter indecent exposure laws

Fashion statements like these are indecent, says Durham resident Wayne Daye, who is collecting signatures to ban sagging pants.
Fashion statements like these are indecent, says Durham resident Wayne Daye, who is collecting signatures to ban sagging pants.

Pull up your pants.

That’s the message Durham resident Wayne Daye asked the Durham City Council to send to young people who wear saggy pants as a fashion statement.

Daye spoke before the Council Oct. 8 to propose an ordinance, which would strengthen indecent exposure laws in Durham by prohibiting saggy pants that expose underwear. The council rejected the proposed ordinance on the grounds that it is unenforceable and impossible to uphold in court.

“It’s not going to go anywhere,” said Council member Eugene Brown. “I can understand why some people are offended, but that will not stand up in court.”

Daye, who said he is in his early 60s, explained that he decided to write a citizen proposal which would seek to ban low-riding pants after he grew tired of witnessing a “culture of indecency.”

“It is offensive to a lot of people,” Daye said. “It creates a culture of disrespect and disregard. I think a person who really respects themselves is not going to walk around with their pants on the ground and their rear-end [showing] in public.”

To prepare his citizen’s proposal, Daye said he talked to a random sampling of people in the Durham community. He collected more than 300 signatures for his petition.

“Everybody I approached about this issue was for it,” Daye said. “Some people said, ‘Can I sign it twice?’”

Daye correlated the low trouser trend with the hip-hop culture and youth delinquency.

“This is connected to what we see going on with our youth across the county with cases of gang banging, disregard for politics and disrespect for social morals,” he said. “It is not just the idea of how they are wearing their clothes, but maybe this is a starting point. We can try and turn this [culture] around. We have to dig in somewhere.”

Daye added that this ordinance could be a mechanism to address social deviance. Individuals who are issued citations for indecent exposure could be eligible for community mentoring programs, he said.

Opponents of the ordinance said it is not within the city’s jurisdiction to control a citizen’s dress.

“People should be able to wear anything they want to wear, how they want to wear it,” said Durham resident Jason Belvin.

Others said it is an issue of individual rights.

“I don’t condone saggy pants,” said freshman Toney Thompson. “But I think [the ordinance] violates freedom of speech.”

Because the City Council shot down his ordinance, Daye said he will regroup and try to rally support with a larger petition so that he can appear before the Council again.


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