Metal Spikes on Manhole Covers Cause Flat Tires for Tucson Drivers

In his 15 years working in a Tucson auto shop, Marty Brechbiel has never before seen so many customers come in on the same day, on different occasions, with the same issue: punctured tires.

Tucson police say more than a dozen drivers have fallen victim to spikes being placed in manhole covers in east Tucson, costing them hundreds of dollars in damages.

Several of Mr. Brechbiel’s customers at Jack Furrier Tire & Auto Care have driven over spikes that had been deliberately placed in manhole covers. Since early 2015, the auto shop occasionally gets two or three vehicles with flat tires within the same day. Many of the drivers did not realize they were victims of a crime until their cars were inspected, Mr. Brechbiel said.

He recalled one customer whose car suffered damages from the spikes.

“He pulled into a parking lot at LA Fitness and there were two or three other vehicles with the same problem,” Mr. Brechbiel said. “They called AAA to come tow them and, without realizing, the AAA vehicle hit the spikes on the way.”

The incidents started in late January. The first report was Jan. 28, when a tow truck company hailed Brandon Zopfi, a Tucson Police Department Officer, alerting him of spikes placed in manhole covers. The tow company said that the spikes had caused numerous flat tires that day. The officer removed the spikes and placed them into evidence for investigation.

Police reports show the bolts had sharpened ends and were placed in air vents in manholes. The spikes are usually four to six inches long, although one police report described a spike that was 12 inches long.

Police said that in each case, a metal nut was placed onto the end of the sharpened bolt in order to keep it above street level on the cover. Usually, two tires on the same side of the car are damaged. Victims stated that they had to pay between $300 to $800 to fix their tires.

Dustin Kupper was driving down Pantano Parkway in late April when he noticed two spikes sticking out of a manhole. Mr. Kupper’s mother-in-law had warned him of the spikes, but he did not believe her.

“Sure enough, one morning those spikes were sticking out,” he said. “I tried to flag cars to try to get them out of the way but there were a couple of people who I could not stop.”

Police said Mr. Kupper placed rocks around the manholes in an attempt to prevent further havoc, and then stopped an officer who was driving by. “I thought maybe it was just kids screwing around,” Mr. Kupper said. “But the more I think about it, I don’t have a clue who would even do all that.”

Police reported at least 10 more victims in May, many near Golf Links Road and Pantano Parkway in east Tucson.

“The big concern is that if a vehicle hits that at any real speed, it could cause the vehicle to veer to that side, either into oncoming traffic or pedestrians in that residential neighborhood, or even into somebody’s house,” Tucson Police Sgt. Pete Dugan told KVOA. “Whoever is making these is using a pretty significant piece of machinery. He’s having to sharpen these large pieces of steel.”

The police have no suspects. Anyone with information can call (520) 882-7463.