Buckhead leaders push for citywide ban on water boys

Leaders in Buckhead are pushing for a new citywide ban on water boys.

Members of the Buckhead City Committee will hold a news conference Thursday morning aimed at "breaking the cycle of violent crime" fueled by teens who sell bottled water at busy Atlanta intersections.

The news conference comes after a myriad of ugly incidents involving a segment of the group. In the last year, there have been multiple crimes committed in connection to the water sales and children have been stuck while running in and out of traffic.

One person involved in the news conference will be Tomeka Pless, whose 18-year-old son was shot and killed in June of 2020 in Midtown while selling water.


Pless' son, Jalanni, sold water for about 2 years. According to officials, Jalanni Pless was killed after an altercation with another teenager who thought Jalanni was moving in on his territory.

"It's rough. It's been rough, real rough," Tomeka Pless told FOX 5. "I don't want what happened to Jalanni to happen to anybody else." 

The grieving mother started a petition calling of Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms to ban the sale of water on street corners. The petition for the ban now has over 5,000 signatures.

"No parent should have to endure the pain of losing a child to this kind of preventable violence in Atlanta, Buckhead City or anywhere," said Buckhead City Committee’s CEO Bill White. "Once lawfully created, Buckhead City will ban water boys and prosecute those who break the rules. In the meantime, we’re proud to support Tomeka’s efforts and ask everyone who lives, works or visits inside Buckhead City’s borders to sign the petition. The unchecked violence, stealing and harassment must stop."

Bottoms has touted Atlanta's own program to try to get the water boys off the streets and working as entrepreneurs - focusing her efforts on the city's Hire Atlanta Youth Program that had about 1,100 job commitments for young people in May 2021.

"We felt they just needed structure," Bottoms said.

With help from the philanthropic community, teens can sign up for work, including mentoring opportunities at organizations like the Boys and Girls Clubs. The boys are given a stipend of $200 a month.

In addition to matching young people with employers, youth will also be directed to classes supervised by the school system.