Police Release Surveillance Photo of Runaway NJ Teen in Twitter Stir

Kara Alongi hasn't been seen since she tweeted for help Sunday evening, a message police say was a hoax

By Katherine Creag and Brian Thompson
|  Tuesday, Oct 2, 2012  |  Updated 11:59 AM EDT
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Runaway's Tweet Sparks Social Media Storm

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Runaway's Tweet Sparks Social Media Storm

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.
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Police have released a surveillance photo of a young woman they believe to be the runaway 16-year-old New Jersey girl who set off a Twitter firestorm after she apparently falsely indicated an intruder was in her home and disappeared.

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. Police say she purchased a train ticket to New York Penn Station Sunday evening and authorities are working with NJ Transit to review available station video.

Alongi gained thousands of followers after asking people on Twitter to call 911 Sunday because an intruder was in her home and then vanishing. People re-tweeted her message and #helpfindkara trended on the social network.

Investigators later said it appeared Alongi, of Clark, had voluntarily called a taxi company and gotten a ride to the Rahway train station, which police say is confirmed by the surveillance photo. Police do not believe any foul play was involved, but stress Alongi remains missing and her family wants her home.

"Kara might feel that she will be in trouble if she comes home after this scare and causing a panic," Clark Police Chief Alan Scherb said Monday as the extensive search got underway. "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 Sunday night 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."

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