When three Auckland teenagers saw a pale, grubby boy scavenging for food in a rubbish bin, they could have brushed past him, as hundreds did.

Instead, the 14-year-old Epsom Girls Grammar School students ran to his aid, asked about his parents and if he needed food or money.

"He looked so lost. I thought if I was in that position, I'd hope that people would try to help me but heaps of people just walked past," student Rosalee Ray said.

Now a video of their actions has gone viral.

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The boy was an actor in a series of New Zealand Police recruitment videos that test reactions to what officers experience daily.

The majority of the passers-by in the video do not look at the boy or make eye contact and one even takes a photo of him on his phone.

The video ends with Rosalee and her friends, Bar'a Bani Khalid and Jacqueline McLaren, trying to help the boy, followed by the message: "Do you care enough to be a cop?"

It has had more than 500,000 views on the NZ Police Recruitment Facebook page since March 23.

"I was so emotionally confused. I gave him a big hug after we were told he was an actor," Rosalee said. "He'd looked so alone.

"I thought more people would have stopped but everyone seemed so concentrated on their own lives and getting where they were going.

"Some people even walked around him so they could still put rubbish in the bin."

Bar'a Bani Khalid and Rosalee Ray feature in a police recruitment video where they offered assistance to some one in need. Photo / Doug Sherring
Bar'a Bani Khalid and Rosalee Ray feature in a police recruitment video where they offered assistance to some one in need. Photo / Doug Sherring

The girls were three of only 10 who tried to help the boy out of about 500 who passed him on the Newmarket street on a March evening during the 35-minute social experiment.

"In the distance, he looked really grimy and he looked like he was only about 8," Bar'a said.

"We were about to call the cops when the director came over and told us that it was a set-up."

The girls credited their families and school with teaching them to look out for others.

"My parents tell me to always be kind and caring to other people because you don't know what their story is," Bar'a said.

"Some people think when you're young, you can't really help, but you can. Even if you're not able to do anything directly, you can find adults who can help."

Jacqueline is hoping to be a police officer. Rosalee and Bar'a weren't sure what careers they want, but said policing might be something they could consider.

Police are aiming to recruit about 400 new cops this year.