An advisory council will release policy recommendations for dealing with youths who sell bottled water on the streets on July 31, according to Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ office.

The recommendations will come from the recently formed Atlanta Youth Entrepreneurship Advisory Council, according to a press release.

One of the leaders involved in discussions about the water-sellers, Jim Durrett of the Buckhead Community Improvement District, previously indicated the recommendations will mix a crackdown on criminal behavior with opportunities for entrepreneurship.

The Mayor’s Office press release, issued July 25, used similar language about the current Atlanta Police Department response. “Water sales and purchases put the safety of both youth and motorists at risk. APD is dedicating an increased response to areas of heightened concern and will not allow dangerous activity of any kind — including running out in the street,” the press release said, while adding, “The Atlanta Police Department, community advocates and support groups are engaging youth who are selling water on Atlanta streets to direct them to safer and more beneficial opportunities.”

“We appreciate the entrepreneurial spirit of youth who are selling water to motorists,” said Bottoms in the press release. “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.”

The re-selling of bottled water on the streets has become a booming business across the city, including on such major Buckhead thoroughfares as Peachtree, Piedmont and Lenox roads. The trend also has become controversial for being an unlicensed business conducted within busy streets, and for sales tactics that may be aggressive or criminal.

Citywide, Durrett said, there is concern some youths are “selling other things, not just water,” being “rude,” and making people “feel very uncomfortable and very unsafe.” Some passers-by are “accosted,” and some sellers have “brandished” firearms and fired at each other in disputes over sales spots, he said.

APD recently announced the arrests of two juvenile water-sellers in Buckhead on firearms possession and other charges.

In his other role as president of the nonprofit Buckhead Coalition, Durrett recently also spoke about the water-sellers, emphasizing police crackdowns, in a Buckhead Business Association meeting. That got pushback from some attendees, who objected to the frequently used term “water boys” for the youths — many of them people of color — as derogatory and called for effective, alternative entrepreneurship programs. In that meeting, Durrett supported such programs conceptually and noted “institutional racism” as a factor.

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.