In a bid to deter teenagers from illegally selling water at busy intersections, Atlanta police say they will now begin issuing citations to their parents.
According to WSB-TV, police said they don’t want to arrest the kids, especially those who aren’t harassing people as they sell water but that the practice is dangerous and the department wants to prevent youths from getting hurt.
Atlanta banned streetside water vendors after hundreds of 911 callers complained about harassing, even threatening, encounters.
Last summer, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms characterized many of the teens as “up-and-coming entrepreneurs.”
“We appreciate the entrepreneurial spirit of youth who are selling water to motorists,” said Bottoms. “But we have seen an increase in unsafe and violent activity in some locations and cannot allow it to continue. It’s going to take a village and we are working with our partners to provide outreach and resources to these young people to help them gain access to job opportunities, workforce training, and educational programs.”
During the pandemic, families across the country suffered financial hardship, which led to a rise in the curbside salesmen. And while there may be a handful of youths resorting to rampageous tactics on the road, the vast majority are working hard to support themselves and their families.
The news outlet talked with a boy who sells water, asking him what he thought about the new strategy. “My mama tells me to be careful, stay out of the way, and don’t get into any trouble,” he said, adding that on a good day, he can make $300 to $400 and $100 on a slow day.
This year, we have already witnessed several unjustified police killings. Expired tags. Air fresheners. Leaving a door open. We’ve been shown time and time again that a seemingly innocent call-in can have a fatal ending.
These young Black men do not need the Atlanta police targeting them.
Rather than issue citations, criminalize vulnerable members of society and ultimately discourage the young men’s entrepreneurial spirit… can the city not work towards a resolution to help nurture these budding salesmen? More arrest is not the answer here.
Kacey Venning, the executive director of the nonprofit Helping Empower Youth and leading by example. Her organization keeps watch of over 20 boys between the ages of 14 and 19 selling water near Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“Some of them are helping to take care of expenses at home. That means rent, utility bills, making sure there’s food on the table for the younger siblings because we are in the middle of a pandemic. It’s not as easy for them to go and get a part-time job,” Venning said.
Helping Empower Youth is trying to find a building where it can teach the kids how to set up a business and their balance finances.