Where have you been?
All around the corner -- and back again
Stole my money
And my honey
Betcha five dollars you can't do this.
With those words, Charron Wormley, 12, jumped double dutch, first on one foot, then on both. She hip-hopped while counting from one to 10 and ended her rhyme: "If you miss, you got my end."
The fact that Charron could jump double dutch in front of her house yesterday was something worth chanting about. Usually her block, W Street NW, between 14th and 15th streets, is filled with adults lolling on street corners, trying to make quick drug purchases.
But all this week the police officers of the 3rd District's Community Youth Services Division are turning Charron's block into a playground. The officers arrive each day in two station wagons filled with games -- dominos, checkers, Uno cards, balls, jump ropes and a volleyball net -- and when they finish setting up, usually by 10 a.m., one of the city's busiest drug corridors becomes a haven for children.
"A lot of times these kids can't get in the street for the drugs," said Officer James McDowell. "We close the street down and let the kids have it back again."
From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. yesterday, four police officers played volleyball with a group of girls and boys. Other officers talked, listened, tossed balls and tied shoes. A radio, tuned to a popular station, blasted the latest go-go and pop tunes.
The water hydrant was turned on full blast, spouting an irresistible fan of water. Some toddlers peeled off their shirts, but most children ran through the water fully dressed. A small boy tiptoed to the makeshift fountain, then fled with glee when sprinkles hit his bare chest. Two older, more daring girls just plopped in the middle of the street and let the water shower them all over.
"We come out in the summer and spend a week each at different streets, mostly in bad drug areas," said McDowell, adding that the officers would be in the 1300 block of Clifton Street NW next week.
"This is a chance for us to talk to the kids about remaining drug-free, not talking to strangers and things like that," said Officer Ron Hampton, who shaped the three-year-old project known as Playstreets. "I'm convinced that enforcement without prevention won't work. The girls and boys we play with here could be future criminals, or they could be, with our help, good citizens."
Yesterday, the older children and the adults sat back on their porches, unable to hide the envy in their eyes, laughing just a little when the breeze carried sprays of water their way.
Paul Blackwell, 14, and Andre Vines, 15, sat in the shade near their apartment building and watched.
Both were just biding time until Monday, when they start work as instructional aides at an elementary school, as part of the city's Summer Youth Employment Program.
"I'm gonna buy clothes with my money," said Vines, who noted that he would make "$124 every two weeks."
"I'll probably save mine," said Blackwell, managing a slight smile before adding, "Well, I hope I will."
McDowell, noting that fire hydrants are turned on as much as they should be, said, "Some of these kids are too small to walk to a pool alone and they aren't near a beach. Last year we took some kids to the Navy Yard. It's amazing, but some of these kids have never seen a boat."
At 2 p.m. the officers packed up the toys, the tables and chairs, the net and the games.
"Are we going to have a festival tomorrow?" one girl asked McDowell.
"What time? What time?" her friend begged. "You oughta stay later tomorrow."