A mother is in tears after finding gang paraphernalia in her son's room as two police officers come to the door to search the premises.
That scene was played out at the West Springfield police station. But the "mother" and "officers" were teenagers at a week-long summer camp aimed at discouraging at-risk youths from joining gangs.
"I'm Officer Maurice, and this is Officer C.J.," said a Holmes Middle School student. He examined a T-shirt and medals "found" in the boy's room. "That's serious, ma'am. You should move and take him to an institution so he can learn not to be in a gang."
The role-playing exercise, complete with youths humming the theme song to the Fox TV show "Cops," came at the end of the camp program, which sought to discourage gang membership in part by teaching participants about the role of police officers.
About 35 Annandale middle and high school students attended the camp, run by the Fairfax County Police Department and the county's Community Services Board.
In addition to depicting a police response to the mother's discovery, students also acted as officers responding to a noise complaint and working at a traffic stop.
"I learned a lot about what it takes to be a cop and what they have to do," said Jerry Quintanilla, a seventh-grader at Poe Middle School. "I saw cops in the movies. It's easy to just shoot people, but it's not easy to calm people down and get them to do what you say."
A highlight of the camp was a visit by Ricky Harris, a former gang member and Redskins player, who told the students that he joined a gang because he thought it would protect him.
Officers urged the students to contact police if anyone pressures them to join a gang. If parents suspect their child is in a gang, a task force in the police department can help.