One sunny afternoon in January, Vicki Chandler, a 55-year-old underwriting associate at Cigna HealthCare in Chattanooga, Tenn., was walking to her car when a teenager in loose khaki pants approached her, pointed to her pocketbook and said, “I need that.” As she recounts the incident, he snatched the purse and took off.
But then he ran into trouble. As he ran, his loose trousers slipped down below his hips. As he reached down to hold them up, the teen was forced to throw the purse aside.
“That boy, he could run fast but he got caught up by his pants, which were real big and baggy,” says Chandler, whose purse was retrieved by a parking attendant who had heard her cries for help.
It's a problem for perpetrators. Young men and teens wearing low-slung, baggy pants fairly regularly get tripped up in their getaways, a development that has given amused police officers and law-abiding citizens a welcome edge in the fight against crime.
James Green might have made a clean getaway when he stole seven DVDs from a Blockbuster store in Ferndale, Mich., last October. But he, too, was undone by his baggy pants.
Green, 30, rode away on a bicycle, with copies of “Donnie Brasco,” “The Bourne Identity” and “Sin City.” When a patrol car knocked over the bike, he fled on foot. As he ran, his trousers slipped down past his hips, and he tripped. He hitched up his pants and ran a few more yards before falling again.
Things got worse and worse for Green. He finally kicked off his pants and shoes and “ran into the yard of 1720 Beaufield,” police officer Kenneth Jaklic said in a report of the incident. “I ran after (Mr. Green), yelling at him to stop.” Instead, Green jumped over a fence behind a garage, and Jaklic immobilized him with two Taser darts in the back.
Green pleaded guilty to charges of resisting arrest and retail fraud and spent 30 days in jail.
Denny Fuhrman, a 58-year-old police officer in Lynnwood, Wash., was escorting a handcuffed suspect to his patrol car one afternoon when the youngster twisted free and took off running.
As he bolted, the baggy blue jeans he was wearing fell down around his ankles, sending him tumbling onto the pavement of a busy street.
“He was rolling around in traffic, looking like a fish out of water,” recalls Fuhrman.
Fuhrman's suspect wiggled out of his trousers before getting up from the street and running toward a nearby mall, as the police officer radioed a description to his colleagues: “White male, running, no pants, in handcuffs,” Fuhrman recalls saying. The young man was arrested at the entrance of a J.C. Penney store after a passerby grabbed his shirt collar and held on to him until police arrived.
Low-hanging baggy pants have been a fashion statement for young men for more than a decade, inspired by the advent of beltless prison jeans, says Andy Gilchrist, a California fashion consultant who has written a book on men's clothes. Over time, the tough-guy image associated with oversized trousers helped make the look standard for hip-hop performers, alternative music bands, skateboarders and snowboarders as it migrated from mostly black city streets to affluent white suburbs.
Just about every other week, Jim Matheny, a 41-year-old police lieutenant in Stamford, Conn., says he gets into foot chases with teenagers. He says it's getting easier to capture them because they can't run fast or far in those loose jeans.
“When I catch them, I tell them they'd do much better if they had pants that fit,” says Matheny, who says he has had to help hold up the pants of his suspects while patting them down to search for drugs or weapons. “It's like: 'Hey dude, buy a belt and save yourself some trouble.'”
Ill-fitting pants aren't suited for jumping, either, as Noah Donell Brown of Hendersonville, N.C., learned. The 24-year-old tried to leap over the counter of a Subway sandwich shop during a robbery attempt, but he stumbled and came crashing down in front of several startled store employees. Brown, armed with a gun, got up and fled into a nearby residential neighborhood as the police were notified.
Police didn't have to work hard to arrest him. As Brown tried to scale a picket fence in someone's backyard, he caught his pants, according to the police department. He was found dangling upside down, his pants at his ankles and tangled in the fence.
“The only reason we caught the guy was because his pants fell down,” said Hendersonville Police Chief Donnie Parks, who spotted Brown on the fence. “He was wearing underwear, thank goodness.”