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Editor's Notebook

Taking Stock: Vandals and Thieves Damage Tires, Bad Service Damages Industry

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For those who haven’t been paying attention, 2007 was a lousy year to be a tire. So many innocents were lost to man-made madness, taken from us in their prime, some well before their contributions were even realized.

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And we’re not just talking about tires.

Dozens, hundreds, nay thousands of tires passed before their warranties even expired, victims of shameless violence and random theft.

Colchester, Conn.: Vandals slashed to death more than two dozen tires over a two-month period.
St. Johns County, Fla: Nine police cars had their tires slashed one night – right in the officers’ driveways!

Butte, Mont.: Vandals stabbed the tires on 15 vehicles parked at an apartment complex.
Gettysburg, Pa.: 41 tires were flattened in a mad weekend spree.

Lancaster, Ohio: Tires on some 30 vehicles were slashed on a Sunday night.

Pontiac, Mich.: A year-long ice pick spree claimed 160 tires – on commercial trucks and cars – leaving residents angry and cops perplexed.

And on and on it went – 60 in Salem, Ore.; 20 in Lancaster, Pa.; at least 160 in Ft. Collins, Colo.; drunk college students took out 42 tires at an Army recruiting office in Colorado; 28 on 15 cop cars in New Haven, Conn.; 15 in suburban Charlotte; dozens in Sioux City; 30 or so in Petaluma, Calif.; 60 in Tremont City, Ohio; 11 in Williston, N.D.; 70-plus in Roanoke, Va.; almost 100 in Xenia, Ohio.

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Some of these attacks were purely random. Others targeted the government or law enforcement, like the tires on four police cruisers in Bow, N.H., that bought the farm. Some happened in “quiet towns” like Center City, Pa., where 56 vehicles lost their tires. Others were crimes of passion or retribution, like the Pittsburgh-area ice cream store owner who took a long knife to the tires on his competitor’s ice cream truck.

Outright thefts – some quite bold, in fact – also dotted police blotters in 2007.

Sixteen Tahoes at a Houston car dealership lost their 20-inch upgrade tires and wheels one night – despite a security system and an on-site guard.

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Lockport, N.Y., saw 10 tires and wheels taken from a home. The thief was quickly caught; witnesses saw the guy drive by the victim’s house numerous times, and one even followed the guy as he went to commit the crime.

Down in Corrigan, Texas, thieves demounted 36 tires/wheels – 20-inch upgrades – from nine new pickups at a car dealer located on what was termed a “very busy” road. Apparently it isn’t that busy as no one saw the crime.

A Scugog, Ont., fire department pickup truck lost its tires and wheels to thieves, who broke into a locked compound to pull the crime, police said.

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2007 was also a bad year – a very, very bad year – for human and mechanical errors that caused several deadly wheel-off accidents.

A 49-year-old woman was killed when a truck wheel detached, flew across the median and smashed into her car as she drove along I-35 near Austin, Texas.

A 23-year-old New Jersey DOT worker was killed along I-287 when a tandem set of tires and wheels came off of a tractor-trailer and struck him.

The Seattle area had five – that’s FIVE – separate wheel-offs during a three-week period. One man was killed. Many others were seriously hurt. And, get this, the owner of one of the trucks that lost its wheel claimed there was no way for him to know when a truck might toss its tires. “If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen,” this Mensa candidate was quoted as saying.

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A 47-year-old man died last Easter Sunday from injuries suffered when a tire/wheel assembly left a vehicle, bounced 1,000 feet down the road and smashed into his windshield.

On I-85 near Belmont, N.C., a minivan was “smashed to pieces” when a loose tandem flew across several lanes of traffic and struck the vehicle head-on. A 17-year-old passenger was killed.

A beloved 55-year-old Milwaukee doctor lost his life to a wheel-off on I-43. The lost tire/wheel assembly bounced off of retaining walls before hitting the doctor’s car.

Dealers cannot prevent vandalism and thefts (except at your shops). And while dealers do benefit from these criminal acts, you need to provide a little extra service to help customers who were hurt by these indiscriminant crimes.

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On the other hand, for 2008 and beyond, please redouble your efforts on educating your teams. Wheel-offs are entirely inexcusable, and leave a horrible impact on our industry and, more importantly, innocent people.

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