We're nearing the three-week mark since the search for Avonte Oquendo began. Now the parents of the missing autistic boy are facing their most shocking news since their son went missing. Police are talking about scaling back the search for Avonte.
According to the NYPD Commissioner, Ray Kelly, there have been no "credible" sightings of the missing 14-year-old since he was last seen on a surveillance video walking out of his school in Queens on October 4. With nothing to go on, how can the police continue to put men on his case? How many more helicopters can they send out? How many more divers?
For one boy?
I'm not without sympathy for the plight of this family. Avonte is just a kid and one with special needs at that. His form of autism includes mutism, so this 14-year-old is not going to just walk up to someone on the street and say, "Hey, my name is Avonte Oquendo, and I need to get back home, can you help me?"
This child likely can't help himself -- even if he's in a position to do so. His life depends on being found, being taken care of, and even a scaled back search is bad news for his parents.
The mom in me says the search must go on and on until this child is rescued.
But this is a question for every family in this sort of situation: how long can they expect the police to go on searching? Two weeks? Two months? Two years? How long can one family's tragedy continue to draw resources?
The police are, after all, not private entities that any one family can command. They are public, and as such they need to serve many families. In New York City, there are millions of people being served by the NYPD. These are parents and kids just like Avonte.
For nearly three weeks now, the NYPD has devoted helicopters, divers, and more than 100 cops each and every day to find one boy. Kelly says they won't suddenly stop the search, but scaling it back is -- sadly -- what happens in these cases.
As public servants, the police have to serve all of the public, not just one family in need.
But that does not mean that search for Avonte or for any child in his situation should just end when the police can't do it anymore. This is where volunteers come in, where we the people can make all the difference. As Avonte's dad said in a plea to the public this week:
We just want to request that everybody take five minutes just to look. If we pay a little more attention to each other, we may be able to see things.
As the saying goes, if you see something, say something ... you may be able to bring a boy home to his family.
How long do you think should police devote resources to a missing persons case?