San Jose Neighbors Claim Well-Dressed Man Has Been Stealing Plants Off Their Front Porches

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Residents of a South Bay neighborhood say a man they’ve dubbed “the Midnight Shopper” has been swiping plants off their front porches. Kris Sanchez reports. (Published Monday, May 19, 2014)

    Residents of a South Bay neighborhood say a man they’ve dubbed “the Midnight Shopper” has been swiping plants off their front porches.

    Under the cover of night, surveillance video shot by residents of San Jose’s Julian-St. James neighborhood appears to show a man walking up the steps of a home and walking off with a large potted plant, not once, but twice, undeterred even when the porch light turns on.

    A few streets over, Joe Pambianco says it happened to him, too.

    “It’s pretty brazen,” Pambianco said. “This guy’s rolling up in a nice car, looking very dapper, and grabbing these things routinely.”

    Pambianco says several neighbors claim someone swiped their plants and other items. They think the culprit might be the man in the surveillance video, who they’re calling “the Midnight Shopper.”

    While it may seem like a low-level crime, the fear is that it could escalate.

    Now, Pambianco is bolting things down and looking into a video surveillance system of his own.

    “It’s generally a move toward safety,” Pambianco said. “If people feel comfortable walking up on our
    porch, they might feel comfortable trying the door, or going around the backyard.”

    The porch thefts are not the kind of crime that San Jose police respond to with lights and sirens, but the department does encourage neighbors to work together to stay informed and help identify trends.

    And, more than once, surveillance taken by a homeowner has led to an arrest, which is why the neighbors are putting theirs out there.

    “I hope he enjoys being on the nightly news,” Pambianco said.

    The neighbors believe the thief might be trying to sell the stolen plants and garden decorations at the local flea market.

    The San Jose Flea Market’s general manager says they require that vendors show valid identification. He said, if a customer ever sees someone selling something that looks stolen, there are off-duty San Jose police officers working security who would be glad to help.