A 14-year-old New York City boy with autism has been missing for nearly two weeks and the search for him has become a consuming issue in the nation’s largest city.
In fact, the New York Police Department announced that it is expanding its search for Avonte Oquendo, the teenage resident of Queens. Because of his autism, he is unable to communicate verbally, which officials say has complicated the search effort.
Raymond Kelly, the police commissioner, said that the department had expanded its search to New Jersey and Long Island and that he had asked for assistance from law enforcement groups in the metropolitan area. As a result, the search has become a major law enforcement effort in the region.
”We have redoubled our efforts,” Kelly said. “We have hundreds of police officers and detectives engaged in this search. We've enlisted the help of the guardian angels society, many volunteers."
The reward has grown to more than $75,000 for the teenager, who was last seen on a surveillance video running out of a school in the New York City borough of Queens on Oct. 4.
David Perecman, the Oquendo family's attorney, said that there had been no new information since the teenager vanished.
“We haven’t any new tips, no new leads. Nothing,” Perecman said, in an interview with BET.com. He added that the school should have been more vigilant in watching Avonte.
“Children with these issues tend to run away sometimes,” Perecman said. “The school was on notice that he had a tendency to run away. He walked off and went down the hallway and left from a side door. It makes no sense that a special needs student would be able to run off toward an exit door. Something should have been done.“
Each of New York City’s 468 subway stations has been searched, police officials said. Additionally, aviation, harbor and canine officers have been mobilized and deployed for the search.
So far, police say, there are no leads. Avonte’s brother, Daniel, said he is afraid that the teenager might have been abducted. "It hurts. It's very stressful to know that someone would take an innocent, poor, mentally disabled child and take advantage of them," he said, speaking on a television interview.
According to Autism Speaks, a non-profit organization, wandering by children with autism is common. The organization adds that it is dangerous and puts significant stress on families.
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(Photo: AP Photo/National Center for Missing & Exploited Children)
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