County CEO Michael Thurmond said he hopes one of his initiatives approved in the 2017 budget will help combat youth gang activity in DeKalb.
In a 5-2 vote, commissioners passed Thurmond’s budget, which included an amendment to address youth unemployment. The county partnered with WorkSource DeKalb to create the “DeKalb Works” summer internship program, which pairs more than 300 DeKalb residents ages 14 to 24 with employers.
An amount of $250,000 from the county’s general fund will be reallocated to WorkSource DeKalb for the internship program.
“We don’t want pimps and drug dealers to be the only people recruiting our kids,” Thurmond said in a press conference March 29. “We’re trying to come together and provide these training opportunities. We know how important it is to provide work opportunities for our children.”
Thurmond said if more youth in DeKalb County had work or training opportunities, it would reduce crime.
Sheryl Stone, director of WorkSource DeKalb, said the program will provide six weeks of employment and work readiness training during the summer.
“This is a critical year for action by leaders of DeKalb County. Youth unemployment statistics for DeKalb County are at an all-time high,” Stone said.
During the press conference, District Attorney Sherry Boston said gang activity is a problem in DeKalb County.
“We see every day what the CEO is talking about. [DeKalb County] gangs are recruiting our young people at a very early age,” Boston said. “This gang, this DeKalb County gang standing on this stage, this is the gang that we want.”
James Conroy, DeKalb County chief of police, said he thinks the program is a step in the right direction toward cutting down crime.
“I do agree with the statement that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. We have so many kids in our school system and [the police department] has our initiatives like the police academy and midnight basketball,” Conroy said. “This program goes right along with that, and this helps us attack crime and helps with crime prevention. Our youth need to learn about responsibility which is very important for them.”
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