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NY Post
New York Post
9 Sep 2023

NextImg:Problem Child: Kids are being used to rob NYC businesses

A crime tale straight out of Charles Dickens is unfolding in the Big Apple — with adults “directing” children who appear no older than 10 to steal from unsuspecting businesses, witnesses told The Post.

The chubby-cheeked crooks have terrorized bars on the east and west side of Manhattan and Brooklyn for months, graduating from snatching money in unattended bags to stealing cash from open safes in at least two bars in the last few weeks, according to workers and owners.

In many cases, the kids at first try to solicit money to raise money for their “basketball team,” and then run amok.

In several incidents, adults were seen waiting for the kids outside the plundered businesses.

“The weird thing is it just feels like a modern day ‘Oliver Twist’ story,” said a manager at Lexington Publick, one of several of owner Jacob Rabinowitz’s watering holes hit over the past few months.

“When they go out, there’s either a man or a woman waiting for them and directing,” Rabinowitz said.

“These are little kids — this is child abuse!”

The child was caught on camera in the office at Washington Commons in Brooklyn.
Courtesy of the Lexington Publick Bar

The kiddie crime wave began about eight months ago, when two children repeatedly wreaked havoc at Amsterdam Ale House on West 76th Street on the Upper West Side, at first taking whatever they could snatch from unattended bags.

Things swiftly got out of hand in February when the pair grabbed food off a table, pushed a customer and flashed a knife, said manager Whitney Kaufman.

“I watched a kid take a wing off someone’s plate and eat it,” Kaufman said.

“I went to escort him out and he cursed at me. The 8-year-old turned around and said to me, ‘I don’t have to do anything you say fat lady’ and punched me in the stomach. He ran into the back of the restaurant, stole a child’s toy. Then grabbed a knife off the table and wielded it like a weapon. They shoved a guest.”

On Aug. 13, a young thief was at it again at Upside on Amsterdam at West 89th Street on the Upper West side, stealing $600 cash from an open safe, cops said.

Child seen on video
A child, who told staffers he was 8, allegedly took money from the safe at Upper West Side bar The Upside.
Courtesy of the Lexington Publick Bar

Bar owner Stephanie Slone, 40, said she had previously seen the boy — who told staffers he was 8 — with an older child and they always asked for donations to their basketball team, offering few specifics about the alleged squad.

The night of the theft “it was just the youngest one,” she said. He waited until the bartender went to the bathroom to walk downstairs to the office, surveillance video provided to The Post shows.

“You can kind of see him looking in each area and doorway and then he notices the office, gets in the office,” she said.

Child seen leaving bar
Screen shots show a young boy leaving the Upside Bar carrying a folder as he is chased out by two employees.
Courtesy of the Upside Bar
The Upside Bar
The Upside bar was one of the bars where safes were robbed.
Helayne Seidman
Stephanie Slone
Stephanie Slone, owner of The Upside, a bar on Amsterdam Ave. on the Upper West Side, was recently burglarized by a child who snuck downstairs to the basement and stole $600.
Helayne Seidman

She said part of the lock on the safe wasn’t secured.

Bar's stairwell
Stairway to the Upside’s basement office where the cash was stolen.
Helayne Seidman

She said the bar is now discussing banning children who aren’t accompanied by an adult.

“The parents are obviously making them do that and have taught them what to do . . . it’s sad,” she said.

On Monday at 8:30 p.m. at Lexington Publick on Lexington Avenue and East 97th Street, one little thief got about $700 in petty cash from the safe, said the bar’s manager, who asked to remain anonymous.

“The kid goes over, he opens the bathroom door, looks behind him to make sure no one’s looking, and then he closes the bathroom door audibly, so that it sounds like he went in the bathroom,” she said, after reviewing surveillance video.

“And then he just slipped right down into the office downstairs.”

A young boy was caught on surveillance video leaving a private area in the Lexington Publick bar.

A young boy was caught on surveillance video leaving a private area in the Lexington Publick bar.
Courtesy of the Upside Bar

Door at bar
The door to the bathroom and the door to the basement stand in close proximity at Lexington Publick, where the child snuck down to the office and allegedly stole money.
Helayne Seidman

The boy remained down there for about seven minutes.

“It was a rather thick stack of bills so he tucked it in is waistband and tucked his shirt over it and then covered his torso area with his folder,” she said.

When he left, the brat made an off-color comment to the bartender.

“I just took a really big s–t so don’t go back there for a while,” the child said.

“It’s really sad, these kids are being sent in, and they know exactly what to do,” she said.

“I don’t know if someone stakes out the locations ahead of time . . . Maybe an adult came in a few days before and had a beer, and scoped the place out.”

Lexington Publick bar
Lexington Publick bar was recently robbed by a child who asked to go to the bathroom but instead went into a downstairs office and stole cash. 
Helayne Seidman

In several cases it appeared the kids were scouting their targets, workers said.

On July 19 at Washington Commons bar near Prospect Park in Brooklyn, a boy burst in and made a beeline for the basement, where he was scoping out security cameras, a bartender there said.

He left when she began recording him with her cellphone — and he spit at her on his way out.

And around that same time, a boy went into Chick Chick, a restaurant on West 90th Street and Amsterdam Avenue and said he was fund-raising — and then bolted to the basement, said manager Josh Ayers, 25.

“I’ve had to physically remove him before. He spit at me.”

It is unclear if the same children are involved in all of the incidents, but several of the Manhattan bar workers said they appear to be.

A police spokeswoman said cops were investigating two recent safe thefts, and whether there is a citywide pattern.

When asked if there was a gang connection, she said the probe was ongoing.

Rabinowitz, 61, said the troubling trend recalled a much more recent time than Twist’s 1830s London.

“I haven’t seen anything like this since the ’80s.”