BAYONNE, New Jersey - Police in New Jersey say two women used a young girl to help pull of at least six robberies in Bayonne.
Police say the adults would distract a clerk as their young accomplice stole items out of view.
Manipulating a 7-year-old girl into a life of crime, Bayonne police say the pair of women captured on surveillance video recently used a child to steal from a series of stores.
"At that time we only had one girl working, so one woman came and started distracting the employee, while the other one was sitting right here on the steps with the little girl," said Karina Apaza, store owner.
The first incident happened in June at a uniform shop on Broadway.
The owner tells Eyewitness News their cameras captured one woman creating a diversion, while the other woman instructed the child to steal a purse.
"My sales girl was assisting the woman, and the other one sit and told the girl, she gave instructions to the girl to go and grab the pocket book and put it under her skirt," Apaza said.
It was a similar M.O carried out at ta Bayonne furniture store, with the women allegedly distracting a sales clerk while the child tip toed behind the register and stole the saleswoman's wallet, including her driver's license and green card.
"I was in the back of the store, she was in the front of the store, and the two women came in with a little child and they were looking at furniture and diverted her attention, came back here," the store owner said.
Earlier this week, an off-duty police officer recognized the pair from surveillance images and called for backup.
The women have since been identified as Sonia Sykes, 20, and Desmone Stevens, 20.
They were arrested on theft, conspiracy, and endangering the welfare of a child charges among others.
Bayonne police are also assisting other police departments investigating similar diversion crimes to see if there's a connection to this trio.
"I just feel sorry for the little girl she has to be under observation therapy, it's just bad for the little girl," Apaza said.
"Bayonne police department did a fantastic job whoever caught them didn't give up, best in Hudson County," the other store owner said.