Runaway Squad premiered on A&E with private investigator Joe Mazzilli and his team. The headquarters for Runaway Squad is located in Manhattan, where a briefing on the disappearance of 15 year old Tayvela was discussed after Joe Mazzilli visited the runaway’s home and mother Yanite. This hour-long program is put together well and is done without coming across as exploitive reality television. The A&E program stated that 1.6 million kids run away annually, and of those, 5.000 of them die. The lead private investigator had spent 15 years with the NYPD, and was affected by his work in the pimp squad, which led him to start a new career of looking for runaways.
The Premiere of Runaway Squad A&E Sees Joe Mazzilli and His Team Traverse the Brooklyn Area for Tayvela
Tayvela had been missing for some 9 months when her mother Yanite, who came from Haiti for a better life, called Mazzilli. She said that she began ditching school and was severely beaten up by 7 people (and wouldn’t press charges—meaning a probable gang initiation) prior to her running away. The Runaway Squad lead private investigator searched the girl’s room, and took her cell phone back to Manhattan, so the tech guru Ed could try to access the SIM card on the phone to get access to passwords and online accounts. The Runaway Squad is made up of other members including Jason, Chris, Gemma, and Steve.
Ed had trouble accessing the SIM card, so he took it to Brickhouse Security in Manhattan to see what could be done, and alas, the person there accessed the card. Upon further investigation, it was shown that recent activity included Tayvela being active on a prostitution website (her mother confirmed her pictures printed from the website), and it’s later found out that she’s been working against her will allegedly in central Brooklyn.
The Runaway Squad headed to central Brooklyn, and asked locals if they’ve seen Tayvela, and some stated where they’ve seen Tayvela at. A stake out continues into the next morning, and during the stakeout, the mother called stating that Tayvela called her and said that if she’s rescued, the gang is threatening to kill her and her mother. So the private investigating team gets their arsenal of guns in Manhattan, and heads back to Brooklyn to an apartment (where the call was traced) near the brothel, where the teen was allegedly working against her will. The big, muscular former cop and his Runaway Squad team aren’t swayed nor intimidated by the denials at the venue nor when some street thugs try to start something with them. Finally, at Day 265, Tayvela returns home to her mother, roughed up, but alive. Everyone, including Joe Mazzilli, agrees the teen needs to be sent out of the country, so she goes away for a couple of months.
When Tayvela comes back, she’s briefed on Runaway Squad by Joe Mazzilli, and says that she started out partying with some of the gang, and then one day, one of her friends took her to a phony barbeque, which turned out to be a set up to be abducted by a pimp, who controlled her working schedule, mistreating her. The experience was so traumatizing on Tayvela, that she refused to say very much about the experience, and had a hard time crying, but finally did when she thought of past holidays.
The Runaway Squad Premiere with Joe Mazzilli on A&E Was Very Gripping
Joe Mazzilli wanted to find out why she ran away in the first place, and Tayvela said there was a lot of tension between her and her mom, especially over going to school. Tayvela said she didn’t have enough support in her studies (especially since her mother had to work a lot) and didn’t like the idea of being put in Special Ed. Classes. The mother believes that her teen daughter is better off than what she had to endure in Haiti, but Mazzilli gets the two to try to communicate to each other better. At the end of the program, it was stated that the teen is fearful of testifying against the gang, and even ran away for a short spell again, but returned home, but is working with the former NYPD cop to resolve issues.
This A&E program moves fast, and isn’t boring, bringing light to what Runaway Squad leader Joe Mazzilli calls “forgotten” kids. As the show progresses, will it only show those kids who are found, or will it have open cases that will appeal to the public for help on?
Sources for this article on the A&E premiere of Runaway Squad, featuring Joe Mazzilli
“Tayvela”, Runaway Squad, April 5, 2010, A&E, Mountain Time feed