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A&E Premieres New Original Real-Life Series "Runaway Squad"
A&E kicks off the original real-life series "Runaway Squad," following former NYPD detective Joe Mazzilli and his team of private investigators, who track, rescue and reunite runaways with their families. The seven episode series will feature a special one-hour premiere on Monday, April 5 at 10 PM ET/PT on A&E followed by back-to-back half-hour episodes each week.
"Joe Mazzilli is a true New York character and a real-life superhero," said Robert Sharenow, Senior Vice President, Nonfiction and Alternative Programming, A&E. "The extraordinary passion and commitment that he and his team display on a daily basis is incredibly inspiring and something we believe our viewers will truly connect with."
Each year in the US, more than 1.6 million youths run away from home. Although thousands of runaways are killed or die out in the streets, most overburdened police departments don't have the resources to meet the parents' pleas to find them. That's where former NYPD detective Joe Mazzilli and his team step in. On an on-going, pro bono basis, this dedicated squad tracks and rescues runaways - often extracting them from dangerous situations - and brings them back to their families. With a combination of investigative techniques and connections, street smarts and dogged manhunt experience, the "Runaway Squad" works hard to find these young adults before it's too late. Each search begins with the parents, as Mazzilli carefully evaluates them to be sure the squad is returning the runaway to a safe and loving home. Whether the runaway is in danger due to drugs, sexual assaults or prostitution, the team is under intense pressure to find these young adults as quickly as possible and mend the damaged emotional ties between the runaways and their loved ones.
In the one-hour series premiere, Mazzilli and his team are contacted by the mother of a 15-year-old runaway who has been missing for nine months. Tayvela may have felt trapped in her Long Island home by her over-protective, but well-meaning, mother. When the team discovers that a gang may be holding her against her will, they turn up the heat and do all they can to find her.
Mazzilli, a former NYPD detective, worked for years undercover infiltrating the mob, and headed the efforts of the NYPD's Pimp Squad during the dark days of the 1970s. It was while arresting pimps that he witnessed first-hand the fate of many runaways, who ended up abused, exploited, addicted to drugs, and sometimes dead. After retiring from the force, he dedicated a large portion of his private investigation firm's time and resources pro-bono to saving runaway teenagers and helping them reconcile with their distraught families. Mazzilli also started a not-for-profit organization, the Runaways Assistance Program (R.A.P.), which aims to enlist retired law enforcement or private investigators on a pro-bono basis to volunteer their investigative services to find runaways. The program will also offer ongoing support for the runaways after they are found. R.A.P hopes to enact laws to better serve and assist juveniles in the system and ensure that a recovered runaway can receive the appropriate evaluation and treatment for drug or behavioral problems in a secure facility.
"Runaway Squad" is produced by ITV Studios (formerly Granada America) for A&E Network. John X. Kim is executive producer and Alexis Robie and Mira Chang serve as series producers for ITV Studios. Joe Mazzilli serves as an executive producer. Executive Producers for A&E are Robert Sharenow and Laura Fleury.