Plagued by years of tire punctures, Springdale hopes ‘nail bandit’ problem is over

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R.J. Morris, a Springdale resident, has purchased 11 new tires in two years costing his family more than $2,000. Nail after nail found a way into his tires.

He’s not the only one. Another resident, Ayrn Morgenroth said she had to replace 10 to 12 tires in the past 18 months on her family’s four vehicles and took numerous additional trips to the tire shop for plugs and patches.

Springdale residents have been complaining for years about the problem and a long-term police investigation suggests that the nails were being sprinkled throughout the community on purpose.

A recent arrest of a man accused of spreading nails on a roadway in nearby West Chester Township has brought the community hope that the “nail bandit” has been caught, but there’s no evidence connecting the man to the years of punctures that plagued Springdale.

Hundreds of nails

In May, Morris was back in the tire shop with another frustrating flat. He decided to ask the shop to print out a report of all the purchases he had made. They handed him five pages documenting all his visits.

“I just drive up to work 15 minutes away in Woodlawn,” he said.

His family’s two cars, one motorcycle, and even his bicycle have picked up nails. In the past two years, all eight tires on these two cars have been replaced, he said.

“My wife will stop in the middle of the road if she sees something,” Morris said. “You get to the point where you’re watching the road so much that you’re not watching the road. You get that paranoid after a while.”

The Springdale Community Group on Facebook is filled with similar stories.

One woman said her family had pulled 20 nails from their tires in two years. In April, a resident started a “Big Tire Thread.” Dozens commented documenting numerous tire patches and replacements.

Others said they often just top up their tires if the leak is slow, delaying the expense of a new tire as long as possible.

Some blamed new construction or the wind blowing old shingles off roofs.

But Springdale police have long suspected that at least some of the nails were placed intentionally and have been aware of the problem for at least five years.

New nails appeared in intersection cleaned the day before

Keenan Riordan, community service officer for the Springdale Police Department, said the city extensively investigated the issue.

Early on, he said it was assumed that the nails were just being left or spilled by accident, but he and other officers spotted some nails in an intersection, cleaned them up, and then found more nails the very next day at the same location.

“There was a pattern,” Riordan said.

Over the years, the nails have come and gone. He said there have been periods as long as a year with no reports.

At one point, Riordan said a detective was assigned to the case and learned as much as he could about nails to track them to a possible source.

A magnet was attached to the city’s street sweeper and another city vehicle to head off the problem. The vehicles would sometimes make multiple trips a week through the Heritage Hill neighborhood where many of the nails were found, Riordan said.

At one point, they even deployed a surveillance camera to catch the person in action.

Riordan said there were nails in the street the day they retrieved the camera’s memory card. Investigators thought they might have caught the nail bandit on tape.

But when they reviewed the footage, it was just cars driving by. Riordan said it was at this point that he realized just how easy it would be to throw some nails out of your car window and never get noticed.

Even Springdale’s police cruisers and city vehicles have been hit. After getting some flats, the police department told officers to park away from some nearby renovations, but the nails kept showing up in their tires. Later, a mechanic determined the type of nails pulled from the tires weren’t even being used in the construction.

“It’s just very difficult,” Riordan said. “I can’t even see what motive a person would have or what person would get out of it.”

He said it’s also nearly impossible to prove whether an individual flat tire is tied to this activity. People often don’t know where they picked up the nail and might not notice for a few days.

Nothing connects West Chester suspect to Springdale activity

Riordan said Springdale has been in communication with West Chester and other neighboring agencies about the issue. He said nothing is connecting the West Chester suspect to the activity in Springdale.

While it may seem unlikely that two or more people are throwing nails in the road, a different man was charged with doing just that last year in Cincinnati.

Officers caught the 54-year-old during a traffic stop with a bucket of nails in his vehicle. He was sentenced to three years probation this May.

The man in West Chester is charged with vehicular vandalism, a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in prison or a $1,000 fine.

Court documents state the man was caught on video throwing nails onto Maulhauser Road in May. He was arrested in August. Due to the level of the charge, the Enquirer is not naming the man.

A bench trial is scheduled in the case on Dec. 19.

“I’m hopeful it will stop, but it may require a lucky break,” Riordan said.

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Springdale hopes arrest means end of flat tires due to nails in roads

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