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New Techniques Being Used In Search For Missing Autistic Teen From Queens

Avonte Oquendo, 14, Missing For Two Weeks
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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Search teams are leaving no stone left unturned as they hunt for a 14-year-old autistic boy from Queens who has been missing for two weeks.

More than 100 police academy recruits joined the search Friday for Avonte Oquendo, who 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.

Since his disappearance, police, relatives and volunteers have blanketed the city with fliers and have combed through train stations, subway lines, and waterways. The boy loves trains according to authorities.

Emergency Service Unit officers scoured the nearby river with a camera on Friday and well known search group Texas EquuSearch also jointed the hunt.

“We’ve got a lot of resources, a lot of success,” EquuSearch founder Tim Miller said. “We’ve got our horses and four wheelers and ground searchers, drone airplane, regular airplane, helicopter.”

The NYPD is now using a new tactic to find Avonte. With the help of Citywide Disaster Services, police have been blasting the voice of Avonte’s mother, calling out to him.

“Hi Avonte. It’s mom. Come to the flashing lights,” the message says.

“If he is hiding, we’re trying to see if we can pull him out from wherever he’s hiding with the familiarity of her voice,” Avonte’s father, Daniel Oquendo, said.

“Avonte responds well to his mother’s voice, so we’re looping it over our system,” said James O’Connell of Citywide Disaster Services.

Volunteers are also using thermal imaging technology to search a marsh near Avonte’s school.

Avonte’s mother, Vanessa Fontaine, said she believes her son is still alive and told CNN on Thursday that she thinks someone may be holding him.

“My message to my son is that I love him and we’re going to find him,” she said. “You’ll come home to your family. And for anyone who has him, please be kind and let him go.”

Fontaine told CBS 2’s Andrea Grymes that she is not losing hope.

“I’m not giving up. I will never give up until I have my child home. Never,” she said.

Strangers have also stepped up, dropping off boxes of missing fliers, some containing as many as 1,000 posters.

An attorney for the Oquendo family praised the work that the NYPD is doing to find Avonte.

“Avonte being found and brought home is the most important thing and the police are doing a heroic job,” David Perecman said.

But despite the aggressive efforts, there is still no sign of the teen.

Police released a picture of a shirt exactly like the one he was wearing when he went missing hoping even a small clue will lead to a big break.

A shirt (left) police say Avonte Oquendo was wearing the day he went missing/Avonte Oquendo (credit: NYPD)

A shirt (left) police say Avonte Oquendo was wearing the day he went missing/Avonte Oquendo (credit: NYPD)

The teen is non-verbal and his family says he has a fascination with trains.

On Saturday the family will join The Rev. Al Sharpton for a rally in Harlem.

On Tuesday, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the NYPD was expanding its search beyond the city with the help from authorities in New Jersey and Long Island.

Kelly said police have received at least 200 tips and have checked out 60 registered sex offenders in the area.

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