Three years ago, Paul Barnes, a former University Place employee, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor theft after he was caught stealing gas from the city maintenance shop.
Barnes, 50, lost his job as the city’s lead parks maintenance worker. At the time of his conviction in 2012, he said, “I just want to get on with the next phase of my life.”
The next phase appeared to involve the care and feeding of a three-decade drug habit, according to court records.
Barnes, an admitted methamphetamine user, was arrested Thursday by Pierce County sheriff’s deputies, accused of stealing packages from porches in University Place.
The packages contained hats, shirts and other gear intended for volunteers at the upcoming U.S. Open at Chambers Bay.
“What he was gonna do with them we don’t know,” said sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer. “He’s well versed in the criminal justice system. We’ve arrested him four times this year on forgery and ID theft.”
Troyer added that deputies were forced to cite Barnes at the scene and release him on his own recognizance, with an admonition to attend an upcoming court hearing.
The reason: no space at the county jail for low-level offenders.
“For lack of a better term, there’s no room at the inn,” Troyer said.
Barnes made headlines in December, when he was caught on camera lifting holiday packages from porches.
Fircrest police arrested him in January. He was accused of driving a car with expired tabs and carrying a bag of meth in his pocket. He told police he’d used it off and on for 20 years, and sometimes ate it.
Officers recognized him as the package thief caught on camera.
Prosecutors charged him with possession of stolen property as well as drug possession. He was released, pending trial.
The Thursday arrest adds to Barnes’ troubles, which date to 1988, when he was arrested for cocaine possession. Since his 2012 conviction for stealing gas from his employer, court records show more than a dozen police contacts in Pierce County, Tacoma and Lakewood.
While Barnes was released Thursday, Troyer said authorities will keep an eye on him as crowds roll in for the U.S. Open.
“We’ll be making everybody aware of who this person is,” he said.