ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) -- You may have seen them at busy Atlanta intersections, young men coming up to your car selling bottled waters.

Opponents of the "water boys" say they are too aggressive while trying to make sells. 

Organizers say they are outraged that the city is arresting young black boys for selling water, instead of looking for a solution to address the situation during an unprecedented time and tough economy.

Atlanta community organizer Devin Barrington-Ward, who serves as a member of the Mayor’s Taskforce to Reimagine the Atlanta City Detention Center (ACDC), is offering a plan to address recent concerns about local youth selling water at highway exit ramps throughout the city.

Barrington-Ward says that the city can still allow young people to sell water and other goods, while also ensuring the safety of motorists and these young entrepreneurs. 

“As a member of the Mayor’s Taskforce to Reimagine ACDC our goal isn’t to just reimagine the building, but also to reimagine the future of criminal justice and public safety in our city,” said Devin Barrington-Ward. “As a city we cannot achieve a more progressive vision for criminal justice and safety if we are arresting young Black people for selling water. As a business owner, I know that when the city engages in this aggressive kind of policing we run the risk of stifling the emerging entrepreneurial spirit displayed by these young people and we jeopardize their safety with unnecessary police interactions.” 

Barrington-Ward is calling on the city to protect these young entrepreneurs by establishing a youth vendor program that will:

  • Create youth vendor permits with a discounted fee.
  • Provide free youth vendor permits to young people who sign-up to participate in a youth focused vendor training. Youth would be paid by the city for participating in the training and the training would focus on the essentials of entrepreneurship, motorway safety, and how to do business with the city.
  • Scout potential high traffic, high visibility locations outside of highway exit ramps that can serve as new and safer locations for youth to sell goods.
  • Provide signage on highway exit ramps that direct motorists to where they can buy goods from local youth vendors
  • Issue new guidance and directives to the Atlanta Police Department for how they can prevent arrest and redirect non-compliant youth to the youth vendor program with support from the Atlanta-Fulton Pre-Arrest Diversion Initiative. 

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