Bridgeton police building bridge with community after disappearance of Dulce Maria Alavez

BRIDGETON, New Jersey (WPVI) -- A community in South Jersey is working to build a bridge between residents and police after the disappearance of a little girl.

It's been over a year and a half since the then 5-year-old Dulce María Alavez disappeared from a Bridgeton playground on September 16, 2019. Authorities believe she was abducted.

After her disappearance, the city's Police Athletic League launched an indoor soccer league to foster trust between the Spanish-speaking community, children and police.

"For the community, when everything started, they were scared they were going to get deported because Bridgeton is mostly Mexicans," said the girl's mother, Noema Alavez Perez.

SEE ALSO: Mother of Dulce Maria Alavez expresses regret, defies critics one year after child vanished
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The mother of Dulce Maria Alavez, the little girl who vanished while playing in a park, spoke to Action News on the one year anniversary of the child's disappearance.



Bridgeton Police Officer Josh Thompson said they don't want people to feel scared and withhold information that could delay finding Dulce.

"What we really wanted to do was really go out and extend our hand to let you know that we were really behind you, so we offered up some more programs," said Thompson in an interview with ABC News.

More than 40 boys and girls regularly attend the soccer practices. The program also offers counseling sessions, GED instructions and nutrition classes for parents.

Dulce Maria Alavez



Dulce's disappearance is still on everyone's mind.

"With the disappearance of Dulce Alavez, this helped our community to be stronger and connect more," said one boy who plays in the indoor league.

And that's exactly what the program aims to do.

"That you don't have to worry about if you're a citizen, we're trying to focus on trying to find this young lady," said Thompson.

Young Dulce vanished while she was with her brother, just yards away from her mother who was sitting in a nearby vehicle.

Action News spoke with Alavez Perez earlier this year on the one-year anniversary of her daughter's disappearance. She said she regrets letting her daughter leave her sight.

"It gives me bad memories because I wish I could go back to the time and come with her to the park and not leave her alone," she said.

While speaking with ABC News, Alavez Perez said there isn't a day she doesn't think about her daughter.

"I would say I'm sorry for not looking over her," she said while getting emotional.

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MISSING FOR A YEAR: FBI special agent Daniel Garrabrant shares new information on the disappearance of Bridgeton, New Jersey girl Dulce Maria Alavez.



FBI special agent Daniel Garrabrant says very few people had their eyes trained on Dulce or her abductor before she vanished. But it's likely someone saw something.

"We believe there are witnesses out there who saw the abductor, who saw the vehicle in the area of the park and either haven't come forward because they're afraid to come forward or haven't come forward because they don't realize how important the information is that they have," Garrabrant told Action News last year.

Just last month, someone claiming to be Dulce's father posted a video on YouTube, saying he had nothing to do with the case.

Police told NJ.com at the time that they were still trying to verify the authenticity of the video.

How you can help



Anyone with any information can call the Bridgeton Police Department at 856-451-0033.

You can also report anonymous tips to the Cumberland County Prosecutor's Office by clicking here.

You can also call the FBI's Toll-Free Tipline at 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324) and select option 4, then select option 8, or submit an anonymous tip to the agency online.

If you speak Spanish you can call 856-207-2732.

A $75,000 reward is still being offered for information that leads to an arrest in this case.



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