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What to Know

  • A thief took off in a running vehicle left outside a Brooklyn store with three young children inside, police say

  • The vehicle was found with the children inside about three hours later; the suspect remains at large

  • Police aren't ruling out charges against the mom and dad for leaving their kids in the running car alone

Police have recovered a stolen SUV with three children inside after a thief took off in the vehicle as it idled outside a store in Brooklyn Friday, but the suspect is still at large, the NYPD says.

A mother and father and their three young children were inside the white Acura SUV, which had Pennsylvania plates, when they stopped at a beauty supply store on Flatlands and East 81st Street in Canarsie in the 4 p.m. hour, police officials said at a news briefing Friday night. The parents got out of the car to go into the store and left the car running.

About a minute later, a man walking on the sidewalk passed the SUV and suddenly backtracked, police said. He got into the driver's seat and took off down East 81st Street.

He abandoned the car two minutes later, about seven blocks away. By that time, the parents had flagged down police officers in the area, and a citywide police bulletin went out for the missing vehicle and children, said NYPD Chief of Investigations Bill Aubry.

Two NYPD neighborhood coordination officers spotted the stolen SUV nearly three hours later, according to Aubry. The two girls inside, ages 1 and 8, and the 2-year-old boy appeared to be unharmed.

"They see these children in there, and [one of the officers] asked, 'Are you OK?'" said Aubry. "The 8 year old responded and said, 'We're OK. I tried to call Daddy.'"

The suspect had snatched the phone out of the child's hands as the girl tried to call her father — though it was her father's phone she was holding.

One of the officers who found the children, Matthew Woods, said the keys were in the car and the ignition was off.

"The kids looked very scared and nervous, their noses were running," said Woods. "As a parent, I felt relief they were OK."

Aubry said the NYPD exhausted all resources in their search, aware that the cold weather could be an issue if the car had been abandoned.

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The car will be processed as police continue to look for the suspect. Police aren't ruling out charges against the parents for leaving their kids alone in the running car.

NBC