Electronic tracking leads to arrest

Stolen car tracked to Town & Country Village, where suspect was found

Palo Alto police credit electronic tracking systems for leading to the arrest of an alleged car thief at Town & Country Village Monday.

Tony Nathan Cota, 44, of Fresno, was arrested inside CVS pharmacy and booked into the Santa Clara County Main Jail for felony vehicle theft, felony possession of narcotics and misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia.

Late Monday afternoon in San Jose, Cota allegedly stole a vehicle that had been parked and temporarily unoccupied with the key left in the ignition, police said. The car contained not only a LoJack vehicle tracking system but also the car owner's iPhone, with GPS tracking software app "Find My iPhone." San Jose police used the app to track the stolen car, a black 2013 Audi S-5 coupe, and alerted Palo Alto police just before 6 p.m. that they tracked it to the Town & Country Village parking lot at 855 El Camino Real.

Palo Alto police officers kept the Audi under observation until 7 p.m. in hopes the suspect would return, but he did not. As officers began to process the car for evidence, one of them observed a man matching the suspect's description walking into CVS, and Cota was arrested inside without incident. Officers also found methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia on his person, police said.

Police released the vehicle, with the iPhone still safely in the glove compartment, to the owner, a man in his forties. The vehicle was not damaged, police said.

Police credit the "Find My iPhone" app and the LoJack stolen vehicle recovery system for leading to the arrest.

"We encourage people to enable security features in their portable electronic devices whenever possible, and to familiarize themselves with how to use them," Palo Alto police said in a statement. "If your portable electronic device is stolen or lost and you are using a remote application to track its location, notify your local law enforcement agency and do not take independent action to attempt to recover your property."

For more information about mobile electronic device theft and steps people can take to safeguard property, police suggest watching "The Epidemic of iCrime," a five-minute video produced by the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office in 2013.

— Palo Alto Weekly staff

What is community worth to you?
Support local journalism.


Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 28, 2014 at 10:16 am

It's a real shame that more vehicle thefts can not be solved this quickly. Maybe one of these days vehicles will come with kill-switches that can be actived by the owner, so that the vehicles will be harder for theives to take advantage of.

Making it a crime to leave a key in a car might also help to reduce the number of vehicle thefts. The owner of this vehicle should be charged for all police time and materials.

Like this comment
Posted by Frustrating Comments
a resident of Downtown North
on May 28, 2014 at 10:36 am

"The owner of this vehicle should be charged for all Police time and materials" ??!? Seriously?

How about we charge the one responsible, the thief! It is a real shame that California and many of it's fellow citizens give so many rights to criminals. There should be stiffer penalties for these crimes and we should not create "Key in Car Laws" for the rest of society.

Like this comment
Posted by Valet
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 28, 2014 at 10:55 am

Who leaves keys in car? Valet. But thanks for showing why your online rush to judgements are so fulfilling.

Like this comment
Posted by Geezette
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 28, 2014 at 11:15 am

How times change, guys ! When I was growing up in Kansas 65 years ago, everyone in the neighborhood kept the car keys in their ignition all the time -- that way, they'd always know where they were ! And the only time you locked your house was if you were going to be away for more than a day or two. Halcyon times…..

Like this comment
Posted by Raymond
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 28, 2014 at 12:46 pm

Dear geezette, times didn't change over night and this ain't Kansas.

Like this comment
Posted by Robert Johnson
a resident of Downtown North
on May 28, 2014 at 6:10 pm

Joe of "Another Palo Alto Neighborhood" said:

>> "Maybe one of these days vehicles will come with kill-switches that can be activated by the owner, so that the vehicles will be harder for thieves to take advantage of."

In its recent offerings, Hyundai offers a system called "Stolen Vehicle Recovery" as part of their BlueLink package. Stolen Vehicle Recovery lets police disable a vehicle remotely, then locate it using its on-board GPS. We have it on our 2013 Sonata Hybrid.

Another nice feature is that the police can initiate a remote engine-power-reduction sequence if the thief is fleeing in the car. It brings the vehicle to a stop slowly, after displaying a warning on the instrument panel that engine power is being suspended. This would prevent high-speed chases with their attendant hazards to the police and other drivers.

Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on May 28, 2014 at 7:15 pm

>Stolen Vehicle Recovery lets police disable a vehicle remotely, then locate it using its on-board GPS. We have it on our 2013 Sonata Hybrid.


Sounds like a good idea to me. Appropriate technology to solve common crime. Why not?

Like this comment
Posted by technology alone not enough
a resident of Barron Park
on May 28, 2014 at 8:36 pm

Three years ago, my iPad and a small camera were stolen from downtown Palo Alto on a Sunday morning. I had enabled Find My iPhone, and I could see the phone traveling on the train up to SF and then finally stop moving at a flea market in Oakland.

I called the Palo Alto police, who took a report (which was what my insurance company needed), but they declined to call the Oakland police because in their opinion -- which I accept -- the Oakland police were too busy with serious crime ("shots fired" was the phrase I remember) to chase after a stolen electronics.

So the technology is a help, but you still need the police force available to deal with the information the technology delivers.

Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 28, 2014 at 11:23 pm

Hackers could have a field-day with that remote engine-power-reduction sequence.

Like this comment
Posted by old days
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 23, 2014 at 11:08 am

I also remember days of not having to roll up car windows and not locking doors. Geezette, those were Good Ol'Days. For those of you who weren't alive at these times, it was a lovely time!

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

All your news. All in one place. Every day.

After 39 years of cakes and pastries, Palo Alto institution Prolific Oven to close
By Elena Kadvany | 55 comments | 16,787 views

Local Transit to the Rescue?
By Sherry Listgarten | 7 comments | 1,359 views

The Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) Process Explained
By Steve Levy | 5 comments | 1,281 views

Do something about assault weapons, now!
By Diana Diamond | 37 comments | 1,097 views

"You Gotta Have Balls [to do counseling] . . .
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 947 views


Register now!

​On Friday, October 11, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run or half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families.

More Info