POLICE in Malaga have arrested a couple for shoplifting: and using their three-year-old child as an accessory to the crime.
Police, who had begun to follow the family when they were noticed to be acting suspiciously, surprised the toddler in a clothes shop just off Calle Larios in the centre of the city.
The woman entered a shop in Calle Liborio García whilst her husband, who seemed nervous, stood outside with a pushchair which held the child.
Police surveyed the woman as she took various items of clothing from their hangers and hid them in a black bag.
When the bag was full, she signalled to her husband, who sent the three-year-old child into the store to his mother. She gave the bag full of stolen goods to her son, before ordering him to run back out of the shop.
Setting off the security alarm, the child ran out of the shop to the waiting father, who had moved away from the entrance. The woman was able to leave the shop undetected by the sales assistants, who were distracted by the alarm.
With the child safely back in the pushchair, the thieves began to make their escape. Police officers, who had been observing from a distance, swooped down on the couple. It is believed that the man tried to run away, and even took a swing at one of the police officers.
The husband was restrained, however, and the bag of stolen goods was recovered from the pair containing shoes and clothes with a value of €177.75.
The couple was arrested for theft, aggravated by the use of a minor under the age of 14.
Surprised by the incident, one of the investigating officers said: “We have seen cases of minors being used to steal before, but always in a passive way.
“This is the first time such a small child has participated actively in a crime of this nature.”
With the couple currently in custody, the child has been taken in by the Junta (regional government) and assigned to a foster family whilst they search for a relative in the Malaga area.
An uncle was found to be living at the same address as the toddler’s parents. When police went to check on the conditions to assess whether or not to allow the child into the uncle’s care, however, they discovered a large quantity of suspected stolen goods in the house – some items with their security tags still attached – with a value of €1,465 as well as €3,500 in cash.
The discovery led to a further four adults being arrested on suspicion of theft.
Although the suspects are now all out on bail awaiting trial, the child has been taking into provisional care pending an investigation into the use of a minor for criminal offences.