After at least a dozen mail thefts over a period of two weeks in south San Jose, police told NBC Bay Area on Monday that they have arrested a 21-year-old suspect on one count of petty theft.
No charges have formally been filed against Manuel Anthony Ramirez, who is out of custody, authorities said. But he is suspected of stealing about a dozen packages from homes along Surber and Henderson drives this month. Since stealing mail is a federal crime, the United States Postal Service confirmed Monday that investigators are looking into the situation.
His arrest is separate from the mailbox break-ins also first reported by NBC Bay Area this month in East San Jose, along Rose Avenue and Nancy Lane.
Images taken by a neighbor on Surber Drive show a suspect riding around with a small child on a bicycle stealing the packages, police said.
One alert neighbor helped catch the suspect by setting up dummy boxes with dirty clothes outside his door to capture images of the suspect on his home surveillance system, which he then turned over to police.
Ramirez was arrested on Thursday, after police said they spotted him casing the neighborhood with the child.
Neighbors were stunned. Not only about the thefts, but that someone would make a child part of the crime.
“I have small children, and I think its just a horrible example. You need to set good examples for your children, and you need to be a good role model,” said Rosemary Cousino, who had some of her mail stolen.
“Horrid. It’s just horrid,” said Donna Johns, who first discovered the string of thefts. “And I think he used the child to make us believe he's just a guy out for a ride."
Even police were taken aback.
Said San Jose Police Officer Albert Morales: “In my 17 years in law enforcement, just when you think you’ve seen it all, you really haven’t."