Oakland woman praises social media for help finding missing daughter

OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) - When an Oakland family's 10-year-old daughter went missing, they turned to their community for help.

"I've lived here 14 years, it's a great neighborhood," said Michelle Edmund of her Maxwell Park neighborhood near Mills College in Oakland. Edmund says she didn't realize how great it was until her neighbors helped her in a moment of crisis.

"It was one of the most horrific experiences of my life," she said.

A few weeks ago her 10-year-old daughter, upset about getting in trouble, ran out of the house after an argument. It was 8:30 at night.

"Initially, I thought, 'We're going to find her in a few minutes,' It'll all be fine," Edmund said.

But when those few minutes turned into an hour: "It was unbearable," she said.

Edmund and her husband called their neighbor across the street to see if her daughter was over there, since their kids are classmates at school. Her daughter wasn't at the neighbor's house, and another hour with no sign of her went by as a handful of people searched the area with flashlights.

Ash Sundarrajan used his smartphone to send out an emergency alert to the neighborhood through the social media site, Nextdoor.

"I thought, the more people we have, the faster we can find this child," Sundarrajan said.

Within minutes of posting that emergency alert and an hour and a half after her daughter went missing, two to three dozen neighbors came out to look for Edmund's daughter, alongside police.

"People started coming from halfway down the block to several streets away, people driving, people coming up and telling us, we've already alerted local businesses," Edmund said.

"There were people who were walking their dogs that decided, oh my gosh, we're in the vicinity, let's go start looking for this girl," Sundarrajan said.

Neighbors worked alongside close to a dozen Oakland police officers to search for the child.

"The police absolutely embraced the assistance," Edmund said. "They had no problem with the neighbors coming out and helping out. It just felt like one community effort."

Oakland police Officer Frank Bonifacio said it's easier to solve problems in a tight-knit community, and that social media, in general, can bring neighbors together.

"We're a guest in their neighborhood," Bonifacio said of the situation that officers responded to when they helped search for the 10 year old. "We get looped into their communications, and we think a close neighborhood is a safer neighborhood all around."

Around 12:30 a.m., Edmund's daughter finally came back home. She said she had fallen asleep in a neighbor's backyard.

Edmund came away grateful for her daughter's safety and her neighbors' support.

"It's a real example of, ‘it takes a village' and now the village has social media," she said.