Hoax intruder message goes viral
A US teenager is now being treated as a runaway juvenile, after earlier becoming a social media hit when she tweeted that someone was in her house and asked her followers to call police.
Kara Alongi, 16, of Clark in New Jersey was alone at home on Sunday night (local time) when she tweeted: "There is somone in my hour ecall 911'' (sic).
The tweet went viral overnight, with thousands of messages about Alongi's reported disappearance and efforts like the hashtag #helpfindkara trending nationally on the site. Alongi now has more than 100,000 Twitter followers.
The search spread to other social media sites as well. A half-dozen Facebook pages popped up dedicated to finding Alongi. One called "Help Find Kara Alongi" had nearly 5000 likes, although much of the discussion there was centred on arguments as to whether the scenario was a hoax, nj.com reported.
By Monday morning (local time) Clark police chief Alan Scherb said Alongi's disappearance was being investigated as that of a runaway juvenile.
TV trucks and news media that had been lining the street outside Alongi's Clark home mostly dispersed after police sent out a press release saying Alongi had run away voluntarily.
Scherb said police were focused on finding Alongi and had not decided if she would face any sort of punishment, he said.
"We don't know why she sent (the tweet) out," Scherb said.
Clark police were flooded with an estimated 6000 phone calls after Alongi's tweet spread across the internet.
"It sent more manpower (down) these wrong-way streets," Scherb said. "It hampers us because we have to follow up on bogus leads."
Scherb said the department even received calls from psychics offering their help in finding Alongi.
As to the influence social media had on the case, Scherb said, "I'm sure this will be a case study down the road."
Alongi had been missing when her parents returned home around 7.20pm on Sunday. They called police to report a burglary and a missing person about an hour after the high school student sent out her tweet.
When police arrived at the house they found no signs of forced entry or stolen property, Scherb said. A door was unlocked.
Using dogs, police tracked Alongi's scent from the back door of the house, through a neighbour's property and around the corner back onto her block where the scent went cold, Scherb said.
Police then found that someone called a local taxi company asking for a car at Alongi's address around the same time as the tweet, and a cab driver confirmed that he dropped off a person matching the girl's description at the nearby Railway train station.
It was not clear whether she got on a train, police said. She left her mobile phone at home.