Vandals, apparently armed with hunting knives, slashed tires on more than 130 cars in a quiet Northwest Washington neighborhood early yesterday, leaving scores of motorists stranded, angry and tired from fixing flats.
D.C. police offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the tire slashers, who they believe are the same persons responsible for similar acts of vandalism in the same area the night before and along Reno Road NW last November and along Wisconsin Avenue last July.
Yesterday's slashings occurred in the Farragut section of the city, a mostly black neighborhood of many retired persons near North Capitol Street and New Hampshire Avenue. Police said that at least two vandals struck between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. and apparently used hunting knives, judging by the size of the slashes.
Capt. Eddy Sims of the 4th Police District said last night that an 18-year-old suspect was being questioned in connection with the tire slashings and that police were seeking two other suspects.
By daybreak yesterday, residents were congregated in the streets, some still in nightclothes, stunned by the extent of the damage. All along the 300 block of Farragut Street NW, the 300 block of Gallatin Street NW, the 4800 block of Third Street NW and the 400 and 500 blocks of Crittenden Street NW, car after car sat tilted away from the curb, except for those vehicles that had all four tires punctured.
"You could probably understand it if they had taken a couple of tires--a dope addict, or thief," said Jim Piper, as he removed two slashed tires from his Volvo. "But this is sick. To slash this many tires takes a whole lot of work. What kind of thrill can you get out of it?"
Beyond the immediate cost of replacing the tires, some of which run $100 each, residents say the cost to their peace of mind is incalcuable.
"Nothing like this has ever happened in the 20 years I've been here," said Aldrich Robinson, a retired post office supervisor. "The girl around the corner had just received a brand new car from her father. The way they cut the tires, none of them can be repaired."
Whenever an unfamiliar car passed through the neighborhood yesterday, residents stared at it and wondered aloud if the passengers were the culprits. "Now that car has been through four times," said one anxious resident. "You know people who do things like this come back to admire their work."
One resident who was awakened by the sound of air seeping from punctured tires told a reporter yesterday that she looked out of her window and saw two or three men speed away in a black Buick, but was unable to get a license number. Police dispatched a squad of officers yesterday to look for one man they believed was the culprit.
For many of the elderly residents of Farragut, the damage to their well-kept, older cars presented the kind of problems that left them wringing their hands. One woman, after opening the trunk of her car, could not recognize the jack. She padded back inside her house and called a tow truck. When the tow truck arrived, she discovered that her spare tire was flat, too.
"What am I going to do?" she asked sadly. The tow truck driver put the flat spare on and told her to get some air in it.
Piper tried to humor the other men who groaned as they removed lug nuts from the flat tires. "You know, this could be a tire company conspiracy," he joked.
Police said tires on 40 to 50 cars were slashed Sunday night in the same North Capitol Street area.
On Nov. 23, according to police, one man slashed the tires of 15 cars parked in the 4000, 4100 and 4200 blocks of Reno Road NW. The suspect was last seen driving off in a brown Toyota. A similar incident involving 28 cars occurred in July in the 4900 block of Wisconsin Avenue.
In April, D.C. police arrested three teen-agers after a BB-gun spree left 80 car windows shattered in several Northwest neighborhoods. The three juveniles, two aged 16 and one 15, were charged with destruction of property and possession of prohibited weapons, police said. Police said they believed that incident was unrelated.