Have a slow tire leak? It may be vandalism

Have a slow tire leak? It may be vandalism »Play Video
Air bubbles pour out of a tire with a small puncture hole. Vandals have been piercing the tires of random cars all over the city with what is thought to be small needle-like objects.

PORTLAND, Ore. – It's happening all over the Portland-metro area – vandals are piercing car tires with objects that leave unnoticeable holes.

The vandalism is costing drivers a lot of money, and it could also endanger their lives.

Drivers don't know right away their tires have been pierced. Managers of tire repair stores say the vandals are using needle-like objects jammed into the sidewall of the tires. The hole is so small it takes several days for the tires to deflate.

Brett Baumgarte, the manager at Sandy Blvd Tire and Auto, says he's had many of the same customers come in multiple times with deflated tires.

"I've had customers come in and buy a tire and they get hit the next week," he said, adding that he sees four or five customers come in with the problem a day. At one point it was up to 10 customers a day.

He says most of the cars he sees are newer, but the vandals appear to be indiscriminate about what cars they hit.

And Baumgarte says it can be dangerous to drive with a punctured tire, especially at higher speeds.
 
"It's a rarity, but it's a possibility that it could happen and that tire could blow out, and we know what happens when that happens," he said.

The cost to the customer to replace the tires can run from a couple hundred dollars to a couple thousand dollars, depending on how many tires need to be replaced.

Two of Sheila Matthews' tires were punctured after she parked her new car on her street one night.

"If I were not an honest, functioning member of society, and I could get my hands on the person who did this, I'd beat them,” she said.

While the vandalism has occurred everywhere, a large number of incidents have happened in Northeast Portland.

In just a month, people brought 20 cars to the Les Schwab on Northeast 82nd, 80 to the Firestone on Sandy, another 80 to Sandy Tire, 200 to another Les Schwab and 300 to one on Broadway.

Baumgarte says there is little drivers can do to protect their tires "short of sitting out on the curb and watching the car every night."

But he suggests filing police reports to help increase patrols in neighborhoods.