The mother of missing 5-year-old New Jersey girl Dulce Alvarez told local media outlets that the girl’s younger brother saw someone waving at the child before she disappeared earlier this month.
The toddler’s brother saw a man “waving his hand, like ‘come over here,'” Noema Alavez said on Sept. 24, according to CrimeOnline.
Moments later, the 3-year-old brother, named Manuel, said she was gone and pointed to a storage building nearby, according to the New York Post.
The two were playing at the Bridgeton City Park in rural southern New Jersey. The mother said the FBI contacted Dulce’s father, Edgar Perez, who is believed to live in Mexico, and police confirmed that the FBI made contact with him, reported the New York Post.
She said that the father, who never had a relationship with the girl, said he wanted to fight for custody of Dulce.
Witnesses told authorities last week that they saw a Hispanic male of slight build take the girl into a red van with tinted windows, prompting an AMBER Alert last Tuesday, according to the Press of Atlantic City.
After the girl went missing, an AMBER Alert was issued, and a $35,000 reward is being offered for information leading to a break in the missing persons case.
Dulce has been described as around 3 feet 5 with brown eyes and brown hair.
The girl was last seen wearing a yellow shirt with an elephant on it. She was also black and white pants and white shoes.
Tipsters can call the New Jersey State Police Missing Persons Unit at 609-882-2000, ext. 2554. They can also call the Bridgeton police at 856-451-0033. The number 1-800-CALL-FBI can also be accessed to provide information about the case.
There were 424,066 missing children reported in the FBI’s National Crime Information Center in 2018, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). Under federal law, when a child is reported missing to law enforcement they must be entered into the database. In 2017, there were 464,324 entries.
“This number represents reports of missing children. That means if a child runs away multiple times in a year, each instance would be entered into NCIC separately and counted in the yearly total. Likewise, if an entry is withdrawn and amended or updated, that would also be reflected in the total,” the center notes on its website.
“Unfortunately, since many children are never reported missing, there is no reliable way to determine the total number of children who are actually missing in the U.S.,” NCMEC (National Center for Missing & Exploited Children) added.
In 2018, the center said it assisted officers and families in more than 25,000 missing children cases. Of those cases, 92 percent were endangered runaways, and 4 percent were family abductions.
The center said that it participates in the Amber Alert Program, which is a voluntary partnership between numerous entities, including broadcasters, transportation agencies, and law enforcement agencies. The Amber Alert Program issues urgent bulletins in the most serious child-abduction cases.
According to the NCMEC, to date, 941 children have been successfully recovered as a result of the Amber Alert Program.
The center notes that of the more than 23,500 runaways reported in 2018, about one in seven were likely victims of child sex trafficking.