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Inside job: Toddler passes out prizes from arcade game at Salem mall

New Hampshire Union Leader

September 18. 2018 10:05AM

SALEM — Be on the lookout for a baby-faced accomplice and the man who fed her into an arcade game.

Police are asking for the public’s help to identify a Hispanic man who officials said deployed a little girl to steal items from a game of chance in the Mall at Rockingham Park Friday night.

Police released images of the man, shown at roughly 6:15 p.m., helping the tot get into an enclosed arcade game to take prizes from it.

Deputy Police Chief Robert Morin said bystanders took videos and photos of the theft in progress.

“We took the time to blur out the images of the minor, as that was the appropriate thing to do,” Morin said.

The man is described as a bearded Hispanic, 20-30 years old, wearing a black Sig Sauer baseball cap, a blue T-shirt and black shorts, with an Under Armour belt.

He was wearing brown shoes or sneakers, police said.

The child took items out of the game and handed them to the man, officials said.

After getting the small child out of the machine, the man took the stolen items and left the area with the girl and another young child, who appeared to be 5 to 7 years old, police said.

Hannah Forese, a hostess at a Red Robin restaurant across from the machine, said she saw the incident and called mall security. She said she was first alerted to the robbery by a customer who walked into the restaurant.

“Two people came in and I heard them say, ‘That’s so unsafe.’ So I went outside and all I saw was the toddler’s head peeping out of the front of the machine,” Forese said.

Forese says after calling security, she came out and saw the man and two children gathering their prizes, including two video game systems.

“There was a Nintendo Switch and a Gameboy DS. They grabbed multiple prizes, but those were the two I saw. Then I just saw them walking up the escalator,” Forese said.

She had seen two young boys recording the incident on their cellphones, adding that mall security secured footage of the whole incident from the boys.

The machine in question was a BarBerCut Lite, produced by BANDAI NAMCO Amusement America, Inc.

Unlike the more common claw machines where players use a joystick to control a claw and try to pick up a stuffed animal or other low-cost prize, the BarBerCut has two red buttons players use to manipulate two pairs of scissors to cut a string suspending a more valuable prize, like a game system or other high value electronics.

The machine is currently still in service but there is noticeable drywall and plastic damage on the inside of the prize receptacle.

Anyone recognizing the man is asked to contact police detective Joshua Dempsey.

Correspondent Travis Morin contributed to this report.

Crime Public Safety Salem Special Report

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