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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -
Chinatown has had problems with crime before, but now witnesses say a new group of thieves are just little guys, some as young as eight years old.
"They feel emboldened because they're getting results, they're getting money to spend, they're getting away with it," said Chu Lan Shubert-Kwock, Chinatown Business and Community Association President.
She says the kids work in groups, often targeting the shops with only one employee. One kid will walk in and distract the worker while the others will swipe what they can.
The Chinatown Business and Community Association says kids have stolen money from cash registers, snatched purses and ipads or merchandise. One even tried to take Jamie Rowlands phone right from her hand.
"I had this kid come up to me and try to grab my phone. I'm looking at this kid and said you know what I can't do anything to this child, it's just a child but you don't know these kids nowadays," said Jamie Rowland, Shirley's Flowers.
When they purse snatch the young thieves work in relays. If someone gives chase they will hand off to another kid until the victim gets tired.
"You give chase but you're too late. You're not going to catch them. They're very fast," said Shubert-Kwock. "This has been quite the operation, when they snatch your purse or backpack they pass it on so they are running ahead. you can't chase them. It's impossible to chase them when they have so many of them."
They don't come around every day, but shop workers are recognizing them and shops are changing the way they operate.
"You can't have the customers come completely into the shop worrying that if you need to walk in the back the register is unattended so that's the kind of stuff we worry about," said Rowland.
Victims have stopped calling police because they figure what's the use.
Police say they have been investigating all summer but no arrests have been made.
The Weed and Seed program encourages people to keep calling 911 and they want businesses to team up and help watch out for each other.
A community meeting regarding this and other issues is just getting started at 6:00 at the Empress Restaurant in Chinatown. Police officers are also there to add their input.