The Best and Worst Wardrobe Choices for When You’re Running From the Cops

Crime
A blog about murder, theft, and other wickedness.
July 18 2013 11:00 AM

The Best and Worst Wardrobe Choices for When You’re Running From the Cops

Illustration by Robert Neubecker.

Illustration by Robert Neubecker

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Alleged crimes: Armed robbery, carjacking

Fatal mistake: Neglecting to dress for success

The circumstances: In 2004 Janet Jackson’s nipple slip during the Super Bowl halftime show brought the phrase “wardrobe malfunction” into popular vernacular. Earlier this month a baggy-pants-wearing alleged carjacker in the Atlanta area suffered a less breast-baring but no less humiliating wardrobe malfunction of his own. On July 5 a police officer in Georgia’s Clayton County noticed a car peeling recklessly out of a parking lot. He gave chase, and the driver, 20-year-old Elijah Freeman, must have become nervous, because he ended up crashing the car—right in front of police headquarters.

At that point a reasonable criminal might have said, “Well, it just isn’t my day,” and raised his hands in disappointment and surrender. Freeman, being a dumb criminal, decided that while he wasn’t able to outrace the cops, he could probably outrun them. So Freeman, police say, abandoned the wrecked car and fled on foot. But he was slowed by his fashionably baggy pants. “He nearly ran himself out of his pants,” a police officer told the media after Freeman had been arrested, and while the officer didn’t elaborate, everybody knows that sagging and running don’t go well together. Freeman was charged with carjacking and armed robbery. No word on what happened to his pants.

How he could have been a lot smarter: The Boy Scout motto also applies to carjackers and other thieves. If you are going to commit a crime, be prepared. Do not wear clothes that will impede your ability to flee. Basically, if you’re a carjacker and you’re not clad head to toe in spandex, you’re not doing your job.

How he could have been a little smarter: Crashing a hijacked car in front of a police station is bad. If you must crash a stolen car, do so near a building, like a nursing home, that’s filled with people who are unlikely to chase and arrest you.

How he could have been a little dumber: Baggy pants aren’t the absolute worst thing to wear if you’re running from the cops. This dude would’ve been much worse off if he’d have been wearing footie pajamas, or a kimono—or both in tandem. 

How he could have been a lot dumber: Well, at least he ran away from the police station.

Ultimate Dumbness Ranking (UDR): This story does a good job demonstrating what separates a smart criminal from a dumb criminal. A smart criminal puts himself in a position to succeed, through preparation, training, and practice. A dumb criminal wears cumbersome pants that will trip him up and subject him to ridicule and humiliation. You should have known better, Elijah Freeman. 5 out of 10 for you.

Justin Peters is a writer for Slate. He is working on a book about Aaron Swartz, copyright, and the rise of “free culture.” Email him at justintrevett@fastmail.fm.

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