Shoplifting trend uses children as decoys -

Shoplifting trend uses children as decoys

DES PERES, Mo. ( -- A woman pushing a stroller in a shopping mall is not an uncommon sight, but in a recent incident, a woman used her baby and stroller to distract from her shoplifting.

Des Peres Police arrested the mother after she made a Facebook post featuring pictures of the items she allegedly stole with her child at her side.

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Detective Trent Koppel of the Des Peres Police Department showed News 4's Jasmine Huda surveillance video of a shoplifting incident, which is part of a trend of using children in shoplifting attempts.

"The child is there, looking around bored," Det. Koppel said of a little girl accompanying three women who police said were shoplifting. When asked how old the child was, Det. Koppel said he believed she was only 3-years-old.

The presence of the girl serves as a distraction so security personnel will watch the child instead of the adults. In numerous similar cases, parents have concealed items on themselves, in a stroller, or even on a child.

"You have the parent who goes one up, above and beyond, and has the child do the stealing," said Det. Koppel. "Thinking if they prompt the child to do the theft, then they won't be the adult responsible for that child."

In reality, the adults are held responsible for the shoplifting. In a recent case at the West County Macy's store, 23-year-old Dwight Sanford was charged with felony stealing after allegedly hiding clothing and other items in a stroller that held two infants.

"We make it our top priority to keep the child safe, at all costs," Det. Koppel said. "But our second priority then, is to recover the property and get the suspect in custody."

Once the adult suspect is in custody, the Division of Family Services is contacted. Then,  a suspect can then be charged with not just stealing, but also for endangering the child's welfare.


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