The reward for information about missing 5-year-old Dulce Alavez has grown to $52,000, as police continue to search for the “key piece of information” that might bring her home.
Alavez disappeared from a Bridgeton, New Jersey park last month while playing with her 3-year-old brother. The Sept. 16 disappearance launched a massive search effort to find the young girl, including more than 300 officers from local, county, state and federal agencies, according to a statement from Bridgeton Police.
Investigators have received more than 1,000 tips since Alavez disappeared, but so far, they've been unable to determine what may have happened to her that afternoon.
“Investigators continue to follow leads in the case and have gathered a substantial amount of information through interviews and technological means,” Chief of Police Michael Gaimari Sr. said. “However, we are in search of key information that we believe exists through the public that would greatly assist the investigation.”
He urged anyone with information in the case to come forward and stressed that law enforcement officers working the case are only interested in finding the missing girl, not potential witness’ immigration status.
“If you are a part of the undocumented immigrant community, you don’t have to be fearful of providing information,” the statement from police said.
Since the investigation began, authorities have searched more than 200 locations, including abandoned buildings and desolate areas.
They’ve also identified and investigated more than 500 vehicles and served more than 50 different types of legal processes, including court orders and subpoenas.
Shortly after Alavez disappeared, investigators said a witness reported seeing a Hispanic man, wearing a black T-shirt and red pants, leading Alavez to a red van.
Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb McRae said that information was provided by a young child, according to WPVI. While investigators have not ruled any of those details out, they continue to investigate other possibilities as well.
Bridgeton police said investigators have also contacted “numerous sex offenders” in the county to determine their whereabouts at the time Alavez went missing.
Alavez, her mother Noema Alavez Perez, her brother and Alavez Perez’s 8-year-old sister went to the city park around 4 p.m. Sept. 16, after the group made a quick stop for ice cream at an area convenience store. Alavez and her 3-year-old brother ran off to play on the playground while her mother stayed behind in a car to scratch off a lottery ticket and help her younger sister with her homework.
After she couldn’t see the children any longer from the car, she has said walked over and found her 3-year-old son crying but her daughter was nowhere to be found, NJ.com reports.
In an emotional 911 call released last week, Alavez Perez can be heard telling the dispatcher, “We are here at the park and people said that somebody … probably somebody took her.”
Authorities and members of the community have scoured the nearby area, even searching the park and surrounding area again Sunday, to try to find any trace of the missing girl.
Police said “in the absence of physical evidence indicating that Dulce has been physically harmed,” they remain hopeful that she may still be alive.
“We continue to consider all theories and no piece of information is too small or insignificant to track down,” police said.
Anyone with any information about the case is urged to contact investigators.
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