NEW YORK (WPIX/CNN) - A New York police officer has earned himself the nickname “gamer cop” after he used his online gaming background to track down a missing 15-year-old.
Officer Gary Strebel, who’s been working with the New York Police Department for three years, says his social media skills kicked in Saturday night while responding to a missing child report.
"We looked around to see if there was anything that might help us, and I noticed his computer open with an app I recognize,” Strebel said.
The app, called Discord, allows users to communicate with others while playing online games, and Strebel, who says he’s been playing video games since he was young, uses it.
"I saw the app, and I realized that if he has this on his phone as well, then there’s a chance I can get through to him this way,” Strebel said.
Indeed, as soon as the officer logged on, he was able to connect with the missing 15-year-old.
“I don’t know exactly if he’s gonna come home or not, so it’s kind of a little grace period, where you don’t know what’s going to happen and you’re kind of just hoping,” Strebel said.
Police say the teenager told Strebel he was at a nearby Shake Shack.
"I asked him if he would come home, told him I was at his apartment with his parents, and we’re just worried about him. I let him know that I’m just a normal guy. I play games, just like him,” Strebel said.
After about an hour, the teenager returned home.
Strebel, who’s now being called the “gamer cop,” says he never thought his off-duty hobby would help him on the job.
"It’s always great when you get these kind of jobs, especially when they involve a child, and they do come home. I was able to do it with something we’re not exactly trained on,” Strebel said. “I was very happy he came home. I was ecstatic that it actually worked and that he believed me to come home.”
The 15-year-old’s father says his son was not hurt. He’s thankful Strebel was able to find the teenager so quickly and called it a “wonderful job.”