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NYPD Expanding Search For Missing Autistic Boy From Queens

Avonte Oquendo, 14, Last Seen Oct. 4

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – The NYPD is expanding its search beyond New York City for a 14-year-old Queens boy with autism who has been missing for 11 days.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said that the NYPD was engaging the help of officials in New Jersey and Long Island.

Kelly said Avonte Oquendo, who cannot communicate verbally, was fascinated with trains and may have taken a train beyond the city.

He was last spotted on surveillance video leaving the Center Boulevard School in Long Island City on Oct. 4.

A $70,000 reward is being offered for information about his whereabouts. A Facebook page has also been set up where people can share information and coordinate volunteer search efforts.

Avonte is 5-foot-3 and weighs 125 pounds. He was last seen wearing a gray striped shirt, black jeans and black shoes.

Anyone with information is asked to contact NYPD Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS, visit the Crime Stoppers website or text tips to 274637 (CRIMES) and enter TIP577.

As CBS 2’s Emily Smith reported, police have set up tents near the Center Boulevard School on 51st Avenue in Long Island City as the teen’s family continues to hold out hope that Avonte is still alive.

A swarm of police officers spent an 11th day looking for Avonte. The NYPD said new officers have taken up the search effort to provide a fresh set of eyes in the investigation.

Daniel Oquendo said he firmly believes his autistic son is alive.

“We just hope that if that’s the case, they are taking good care of him and they should know that they can always turn him, bring him in. He can’t speak so he’s not going to be able to call anybody out. We just want our baby back home,” he told Smith.

NYPD brass said the search effort is still going strong.

“If this was our son, what would we be doing differently,” NYPD Chief Of Department Philip Banks said. “We are not giving up hope that we can find this young man and deliver him home.”

Some parents in the school community still want to know how Avonte, who was supposed to be supervised at all times, could be allowed to just walk out the door. But the teen’s family said that’s not the priority right now.

“Maybe if he’s not out on the street then somebody does have him. And I just hope that whoever does have my brother, they just give him up please so we can have him back,” Daniel Oquendo, Avonte’s brother, told Smith.

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(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)