A runaway teen returned home safely Saturday night after disappearing on Friday evening. Her case likely sparked a Facebook posting that quickly went viral.
West Deptford Police are not releasing details on the case, as the teen is a juvenile and there was no criminal activity suspected. After the teen’s mother received information on her daughter’s whereabouts, she picked up the girl.
“This was your basic run-of-the-mill runaway,” police Chief Craig Mangano said.
What makes the case unusual, however, is social media’s involvement. A post on Facebook about a missing teen from West Deptford went viral this weekend. Another user posted a teen girl’s photo and asked for her safe return.
The post began appearing in Facebook users’ news feeds on Saturday morning. In short order, more than 2,400 people shared the post and 100 users from New Jersey to California commented on it.
Mangano declined to confirm if the post related to the missing persons case. West Deptford Patch is not linking to the post as it includes a minor’s name and photograph.
It’s not unusual for police to harness the power of social media to solve crimes or get word out quickly on a pending case. In a case with a much unhappier ending, Autumn Pasquale’s picture was sent far and wide around Facebook and other social media sites in the days from when she went missing until her body was found in Clayton.
Other local police departments, notably Gloucester Township, use social media regularly to post information on unsolved crimes and solicit tips. But it’s much more rare to see a post about a missing child when foul play isn’t suspected.
Sometimes, a post can take on a life of its own even when the case is solved. The page that posted the information about the missing West Deptford teen did not, as of Monday afternoon, provide an update that she was found or remove the original post. Users continued to share it through Monday.
In a Woodbury case two weeks ago, a high school student left school without permission and sparked missing person posts online. Although the student was located hours later, the local library did not remove or update its post either, leading to “unnecessary media interest,” a Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office spokesman said.