Published: Mar 14, 2014 5:14 PM EDT
Updated: Mar 14, 2014 9:44 PM EDT

FORT MYERS, Fla. - Basketball is a way of life on a small stretch of Royal Palm Avenue south of Moreno Avenue.  Every afternoon, the neighborhood kids gather to shoot hoops.

Neighbors say the street is quiet, but police acknowledge it runs through some of Fort Myers' dangerous neighborhoods.  Just weeks ago, a man was shot and killed a few blocks away on Hanson Street.

So when Fort Myers Police officers Brandon Birch and Edward Quinn saw a chance to connect with teenagers one day last month, they jumped at it.

"They were asking us to come play ball," Birch told WINK News Anchor Cayle Thompson. "So we stopped and played for a little bit."

The officers were on routine patrol when they saw three teens playing basketball in the street.  When Renee Harrison looked out her window and saw the officers playing with her son, she grabbed a camera and started snapping pictures.

"I was just so surprised and so happy," Harrison said. "It seemed really good to have them interact with the kids."

"There may be a lot of crime, but there are a look of good people here," Officer Quinn told WINK.  "There are a lot of good families."

The officers are assigned to the department's Violent Task Force.  They investigate some of the city's most serious crimes.

"It was nice to sort of slip out of our element and play with the kids a little bit," Officer Birch said.

Friday, the Fort Myers Police Department commended the officers for stepping up and connecting with the community.  Officials hope it helps build trust and partnerships in an area that can use both.

"It's definitely a positive impact," said Officer Birch.  "It's good to tell these kids you can come and talk to police about stuff."

"I just hope they learn everything is about togetherness," Harrison said. "And that there are good police officers out there trying to get involved with kids."

For Officer Quinn, it's very simple.  "We're no different from them," he said.