By Cleve Bryan


BRIDGETON, N.J. (CBS) – Today marks one week since 5-year-old Dulce Maria Alavez vanished from a park in Bridgeton. Over the weekend, authorities expanded their search for the little girl.

It’s been a week of tears and frustration for Dulce’s family as well as the Bridgeton community. At the ballfield near where the girl disappeared, more than 100 people turned out for a prayer vigil over the weekend. Residents are worried about Dulce and the safety of their own children.

N.J. Community Comes Together For Candlelight Vigil, Praying For Return Of Missing 5-Year-Old Dulce Maria Alavez

Last Monday, Dulce disappeared between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. from the Bridgeton City Park playground. Police say she was playing with her little brother while her 19-year-old mother sat in a nearby parking lot.

Since then, there have been several large-scale search efforts in Bridgeton City Park, which spans about 1,000 acres.

At this point, authorities believe Dulce was abducted and issued an Amber Alert last Tuesday, asking people to look for a man with orange sneakers who was driving a red minivan or SUV.

He is described as a light-skinned, possibly Hispanic, man, and standing 5-foot-6 to 5-foot-8 with a thin build. He has no facial hair but he does have acne.

Police have repeatedly said they have no strong suspects, but would like to find the man who was at first identified as the possible kidnapper.

Dulce Maria Alavez

New Jersey State Police and the FBI are working on the investigation, helping interview more than 75 people, including Dulce’s family who police say are cooperating.

Police say they have been locating and interviewing known sex offenders in the Bridgeton area and continue to expand that investigation.

Authorities are now asking for anyone who was in the park last Monday between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. to look at their phones for pictures and video that might contain clues.

“We just beg the people that if they know something to tell the police,” Dulce’s cousin, Yiesica Hernandez, said.

 

Police do not plan to do another large-scale search of the park but will follow credible leads.

They continue to ask the public to look out not only for Dulce, but possible suspects and people you know that might be acting odd or erratic since Dulce disappeared last week.

As the search for Dulce passes the one-week milestone, people in the community worry about the girl and their own children.

“I’ve been raised in Bridgeton and it’s very weird in that it’s never happened before, and me as a mother of three kids, it’s scary for all of us,” Bridgeton resident Rosario Hernandez said.

Dulce was last seen wearing a yellow shirt with an elephant, black and white pants, and white shoes.

There is a $35,000 reward for information on Dulce’s whereabouts. Tips can be given anonymously.

*** If you have any information, please call police at 856-451-0033 or text anonymously to TIP411. ***