NBC 4 New York
A teenager's tweet asking for a 9-1-1 call sparked a viral response that flooded her home town's police department. It turned out she ran away, but now there are questions about how to handle the response. Brian Thompson reports.
Police say a New Jersey girl who tweeted that someone was in her home and asked her followers to call 911 likely left her house voluntarily.
Kara Alongi, 16, was seen on a security camera at the NJ Transit Rahway train station in Union County, holding a backpack and a large purse, The Star-Ledger reported Monday.
Investigators said earlier someone had called a local taxi company at about the same time the hoax Tweet was posted, and the driver who responded positively identified Alongi as the fare he picked up. He told police he drove her to the Rahway train station.
Alongi gained thousands of followers after asking people on Twitter to call 911 Sunday because an intruder was in her home and then apparently disappearing. People re-tweeted her message and #helpfindkara trended on the social network.
A preliminary investigation suggested that no foul play was involved in her disappearance.
Police Chief Alan Scherb said Alongi's apparent disappearance remains a missing person's investigation.
"Kara might feel that she will be in trouble if she comes home after this scare and causing a panic," Scherb said in a statement. "At this point, all everyone cares about is seeing her safe and at her house where she belongs."
Twitter users worldwide tweeted messages of good will @KaraAlongi overnight as her initial post asking for help circulated. Many said they were frightened to think about what could have happened to her.
Others were skeptical about her pleas for help, pointing out a Tweet that allegedly popped up on Alongi's account that said: "Why is everyone saying I'm missing? I was jkin haha" and was deleted a short time later.
When NBC 4 New York called the missing girl's home, someone quickly answered "no comment" and hung up. No one answered the door.
For Carly Martin, a Rutgers sophomore who followed the tweets Sunday night, it was more than disappointing to find out someone just a few years younger would take advantage of a social media site in that way.
"That's just ridiculous," Martin said. "You shouldn't be making a joke out of that when people are actually missing."
The Clark police communications center got more than 6,000 calls in the hours after #helpfindkara went viral.
Rutgers journalism and media studies chair Jack Bratich was hardly surprised by the reaction to Alongi's tweet.
"Twitter lends itself to this kind of quick response -- quick mobilization, sometimes panic," Bratich said.
Alongi was still missing Monday night.