NYPD Tracks Down Missing Teen Using Video Games

Playing Cop Encourages Missing Teen to Come Home Through Gaming App

Many parents wish their kids would get off the computer, but it may all be thanks to his video gaming habits that this New York City teen is now home safe and sound.

A 15-year-old believed to have run away from his family’s Upper East Side home was successfully reached through Discord, an online chat room geared toward gamers.

“I was there when he got back,” said 25-year-old NYPD Officer Gary Strebel. “The parents were very happy to see him.”

Strebel told WCBS it all started Saturday night, when he received a 911 call about the boy leaving his home without telling his parents where he was going.

The boy had apparently run away before, and officers went to check on places he normally goes, but when he didn’t turn up, officers decided to check his computer at home.

“I noticed that his computer was open,” Strebel said. “This app was open on his screen, and it’s basically once you’re logged in, it looks like a chat room. So there's different names different conversations open and I could see that he was chatting back and forth with some friends."

Strebel grew up loving video games, and when he saw it might help him in his career, he sprung to action with his unique skills. He quickly logged into his own account, sent the teen a friend request and began chatting with the him remotely.

“You sure don’t sound like a police officer,” the teen wrote.

Strebel replied, “[Because] I’m a normal guy. I play League of Legends and Fortnite and I’m a cop and I want you to come home or tell me where you are.”

“OK, I’ll take your word for it and come back,” the teen wrote.

Strebel said he never anticipated his online presence would help a teen get home safely but offered a recommendation to other parents: “Awareness is key, so just being aware everybody uses social media and just keeping an eye on what they’re doing on social media.”

RELATED STORIES

Police Get Called to a Reported Kidnapping, Find Out It’s Just a Music Video

Woman Who Calls Police for Help Winds Up Getting Arrested

Suspect Named in 1973 Cold Case Killing of Young Couple After Police Use Genealogy Website