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INDIANAPOLIS — Indy police are continuing to investigate how and why a 2-year-old girl went missing for nearly 16 hours Thursday on the city’s near east side before being found safe.

Officers with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department said they are not sure exactly what time on Thursday the young girl walked away from a home in the 800 block of North Rural Street, but confirmed she walked nearly 1,000 feet down an adjacent alley before being spotted in the 600 block by a stranger.

Police said they believe the stranger simply intended to help the child.

“We’ve seen so many times where this could have had a horrible ending,” said IMPD Officer William Young.  “That didn’t happen and we’re so thankful it turned out the way it did.”

Young said home surveillance video recorded a man walking outside at the same time a woman who lives in the neighborhood spotted the child in the alley Thursday morning.

As the investigation continued, IMPD worked with the Indiana State Police to issue a statewide Silver Alert for the missing toddler. It was later canceled around 8:30 p.m. Thursday after officials confirmed the child was found safe.

While the girl’s disappearance sparked an intensive search for several hours, police now believe the woman who found the child took care of the toddler and didn’t realize she had been reported missing until Thursday night, when that same woman returned the child to her family.

“We’re extremely happy she was safe,” Young said. “The only caveat to that is I would encourage anyone in that position to dial 911 immediately because we had a lot of resources out there.”

Police reports show the girl’s family did not file a missing persons report for nearly 10 hours after she was first spotted in the alley. IMPD couldn’t explain the reason for that delay.

“Again that’s why we want you, if that ever happens again, to call 911 immediately and our officers will come out and take care of it,” said Young.

While the woman who found the child is not accused of breaking any laws, IMPD will forward the case to the prosecutor’s office to determine if the girl’s family could face criminal charges. Several other children inside the home were taken into custody by child protective services, police said.

Due to the case being an active investigation, anyone with important information to share can still contact either IMPD or Crime Stoppers at 317-262-TIPS.