New York police are searching for two women caught on surveillance footage using a 4-year-old girl to steal purses from patrons at stores.
Police have released the surveillance images with hope that someone will come forward to help identify the women. The photos show two heavyset women directing the girl, who is believed to be about 4 years old, to steal a purse that had been left on a counter at a Queens clothing boutique before moving on to their next location, a local thrift store.
The two thefts happened last Wednesday in Bayside, Queens.
On the surveillance tape, the girl hands the purse to one of the women who then shoves it in her pants before they left. Police say the stolen purse was not an item for sale and belonged to a customer. They say it contained $200 and a debit card.
Police say the trio was spotted an hour and a half later. According to reports, the child stole two purses from store volunteers.
Workers at the Worthy Pause store, which sells donated items to help fund animal shelters, told police that the child stole a purse and a fanny pack from 76-year-old and 78-year-old volunteers.
One of those volunteers, 78-year-old Rose Meehan, said “the thieves were bright because they maneuvered them to be away from the counter and distracted them. One volunteer was even up on a ladder because they asked to see something from the top shelf.”
Police believe the girl is related to at least one of the women.
“I think it’s tragic. I think it’s child abuse, that’s what I think,” Meehan added.
The New York Police Department is asking anyone with information that could lead to the arrest of these two women to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS.