A Union City man who police said stole packages from homes in Palo Alto and San Jose in recent weeks was arrested Tuesday afternoon on an array of drug, weapon and burglary charges after a Midtown resident saw the man steal items off a neighbor's porch.
Palo Alto police tracked down Andrew Philip Stafford, 25, on New Year's Day just minutes after a resident on the 2600 block of Marshall Drive noticed him engaging in suspicious behavior at the neighboring property. The resident called the police at about 12:20 p.m. and reported that a man had just taken two packages from the neighboring porch. The caller also provided a description of the thief and his white pickup truck and noted that the man was heading southbound on Ross Road.
About two minutes later, Palo Alto officers spotted the truck and began following it. They watched the man park the truck on the 3400 block of Janice Way, near Greer Road, detained the 25-year-old driver, and searched the truck. Inside, officers allegedly found a cache of illegal and illegally obtained items, including the packages from Marshall Drive (which contained about $120 in property); a personal check that they later determined was stolen from a San Jose mailbox in late December; a collapsible baton and a replica .45-caliber handgun with safety markings removed. Both the baton and the replica gun were within arm's reach of the driver's seat, police said.
Police also found Stafford to be in possession of methamphetamine, cocaine and syringes, as well as evidence -- including a scale and numerous plastic baggies -- that he may have been selling drugs.
Stafford was booked into the Santa Clara County Main Jail for felony charges of possession of stolen property, possession of an illegal baton, and possession of methamphetamine and cocaine for sale. He is also facing misdemeanor charges of possession of an imitation firearm with safety markings removed and possession of drug paraphernalia.
A follow-up investigation indicated that Stafford may have been involved in other cases of missing packages. Palo Alto detectives served a warrant on a storage locker that Stafford rented in Campbell. Inside, detectives found two boxes that they believe may have been stolen off porches in San Jose. Officers are contacting possible owners of these packages to confirm whether the items were indeed stolen, according to a police news release. They are also investigating Stafford's connection to other local cases of package theft.
In the statement, Palo Alto police praised the resident who made the call on New Year's Day for both recognizing suspicious behavior and for promptly reporting it.
"The timely call, coupled with a quick response from our officers, led directly to this arrest," police said.
Police said package theft from porches is a common crime, particular during the holiday season. Palo Alto has had a few cases in the past month but it has not been a widespread problem this holiday season, police said.
Anyone with information about this crime is asked to call the police department's 24-hour dispatch center at (650) 329-2413. Anonymous tips can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or sent by text message or voice mail to (650) 383-8984.