- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 19, 2004

Fairfax County police are concluding a busy week of giving 35 Annandale teens a behind-the-scenes look at police operations, with the expectation that they will see better alternatives to joining a gang.

“Showing the kids positive role models might help influence them and show them that there might be other things in life than those presented … by gangs,” said Capt. Jack Hurlock, commander of the West Springfield police station.

The police worked hastily with Fairfax County’s community-services board, recreation department and courts last month to create the camp — amid a series of violent, gang-related incidents in Northern Virginia.

The middle- and high-school students participated in such activities as touring a 911 center and juvenile court, taking a class on high-speed chases and talking with helicopter crews.

The camp is scheduled to end today with each teen playing the role of a police officer interacting with a juvenile, who will be played by a police cadet.

“We’re making our job so much easier, getting them on our side,” said Officer Rex Pagerie. “Plus, it keeps them out of trouble.”

Laura Yager of the county’s community-services board hopes the camp, which was conducted in the West Springfield police station, will become a model for the rest of the country.

“We’d like to get to these kids before they are involved in gangs, instead of taking it to a law-enforcement level,” she said.

Miss Yager said other events has been planned for throughout the year so the teens can come back to learn more about community involvement.

“We hope to stay involved in their lives,” she said.

On Tuesday, the teens were supposed to see a presentation from a crash-reconstruction team. However, the investigators could not come that morning because of an accident that killed a 48-year-old woman.

The teens instead viewed the woman’s 1999 Buick, which had been hauled to the police operations center.

Edwin Sanchez, 14, spotted the crash victim’s shoe on the dashboard.

“Let’s see if she had any style,” he said, walking around to the front of the car.

But yesterday, Edwin was more reflective. He said the camp had showed him the foolishness of joining a gang.

“It won’t get you anywhere in life, and you’ve got to make decisions,” he said. “One decision you make in 10 seconds could mess you up for years.”

The teens were an equal mix of girls and boys and were from a cross section of races.

Capt. Hurlock said they had considered organizing a camp for known gang members, but decided instead to target teens “who might be on the borderline who we could impact.”

Only a few of the teens were Hispanic boys, prime targets for gang recruitment.

Mohamed “Moe” Alafranqi, 15, is a sophomore at Annandale High School. He is the son of Algerian and Palestinian parents and has resisted gang life.

“I’ve been asked a lot to be in them, but there’s no point, especially since I’m concentrating on school. But I do know people in them,” Mohamed said.

The teen said he is aware of gang meetings that have included up to 100 members from different areas in Northern Virginia. Police have estimated that there are 4,300 gang members in Northern Virginia.

As a result of the camp, Mohamed has expressed interest in the county’s “Explorer” program, which is a feeder program for high-school students into the police department.

“I want to be there to protect people when they need help, not just to have a gun,” he said.


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