Atlanta mayor launches ‘Year of the Youth’ to combat violent crime

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens kicked off his “Year of the Youth” plan Monday in an effort to help curb violence affecting city’s young people.

“The Year of the Youth is an initiative to ensure Atlanta’s children, youth and young adults have all of the resources necessary to thrive,” the mayor’s office said.

In 2022, 19 children and teens were among the city’s 170 homicide victims. Shootings during the holiday season killed four under age 18. Deshon DuBose, 13, is among the young victims claimed by violence in 2023. He was leaving Cascade Family Skating Jan. 21 when he was shot to death, according to police.

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“I was out there this weekend and watched little Deshon get killed,” resident Duwon Robinson said in an Atlanta City Council meeting after the shooting.

“He had my permission to go to the skating rink. I let him go to the skating rink and I wasn’t expecting for this to happen like this,” Deshon’s mother, Charlett DuBose told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It’s still shocking to me. It still feels unreal to me. They took my baby.”

Dickens has repeatedly joined police leaders and others in the community to urge an end to the violence.

“These young folks have been gunned down too soon and, unfortunately for their parents, they are going to have to bury a child,” Dickens told the AJC late last year. “Part of it is getting people to learn how to de-escalate conflicts. The vast majority of our homicides are interpersonal — people that are acquaintances, people that are familiar to one another, domestic violence, you have a business relationship or a neighbor. They are angry. They have access to a gun. And they use it.”

“Year of the Youth” is among a number of programs the mayor has championed to keep young people safe. Midnight basketball games and the Police Athletic League, along with a program to employ teens during the summer, are helping many stay out of trouble, Dickens said. The city and police departments have collaborated with the school system to keep kids off the streets and out of gangs.

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Last summer, Atlanta hired 3,000 teens for various jobs paying an average of $16 an hour, the mayor said. A similar program was implemented over the winter break.