TEMPE, AZ — A five-year-old child who wandered out of his home while his family was asleep on Tuesday morning is safe and with his family thanks to good Samaritans and quick police work.
Motorists called police around 6 a.m. after noticing the child in the middle of the roadway with no clothes near Apache Road and Price Road. Others pulled out, got the child out of the road, and put some clothes on him.
"There's a little boy he's about 4-5 years old running around her," one man told a 911 dispatcher over the phone. That man was on his way to a doctor's appointment.
"He's outside running around, and he don't got any clothes on," the man told the dispatcher. "There's two cars that's talking to him right now. I tried to talk to him, but he just kept running around."
Records show the temperature was about 50 degrees at the time. The area is a busy commuter passage with the freeway nearby and the light rail down the street.
"Looks like he can't speak too well," the man added.
The child is autistic, a spokesperson with the Tempe Police Department told ABC15. Officers later learned that the child has a habit of taking his clothes off.
Police issued a media alert Tuesday morning and posted informational fliers via their social media accounts after being unable to find the child's family. Within a couple of hours, someone recognized the child and reached out to his family, who reportedly lives in an apartment complex nearby.
"The child was only about 150 feet away from the residents," said Tempe police Detective Greg Bacon. He credited the media and the community for helping reunite the family.
Bacon said the child's mother was frantic when she learned her child was missing.
He said police do not plan on filing any charges against the family and said, more than anything, the family needed help and access to resources.
"Not everything is about punishment. Not everything is about writing tickets or arresting people, but what can we do as a police department to help this family," he said.
One of those resources is CARE 7, the City of Tempe's crisis response agency.
"We can provide so many resources to families that they just may not be aware of because they're caught up in the daily struggle of just surviving," said Kristen Scharlau, human services manager at CARE 7.