‘Ninja road stars’ piercing tires in South Lake Tahoe (photos)

Claire Cudahy
Kimmi Phelps captured this photo of the caltrop that punctured her tire in the Crescent V Shopping Center in South Lake Tahoe.
Courtesy / Kimmi Phelps |

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — At least two incidents of punctured tires due to spikes in the roads have been reported to police over the past two weeks.

On Nov. 19, Mandy Lee warned South Lake Tahoe residents over Facebook that her grandmother had four punctured tires due to these spikes — more specifically called “caltrops,” a four-pointed stainless steel weapon that is designed to sit with one sharp edge always pointed up.

A set of 10 caltrops can be purchased on Amazon for under $10, and are marketed as “ninja road stars” that are “great for booby traps.”

On Nov. 23 in the parking lot of the Crescent V Shopping Center, another incident occurred.

Kimmi Phelps’ tire was punctured by the same style of caltrop on her way out of the parking lot.

“I was parked kind of by Baja Fresh, and pulled out of the entrance that’s close to the movie theatre. As I was coming up to the entrance I heard something … I finally realized it was coming from my tire. Sure enough there was a spike sticking right out of it,” recalled Phelps. “It was like a little ninja star type thing. I had read other people’s warnings on Facebook, so I knew about it.”

After snapping some pictures of the caltrop in her tire, Phelps alerted the security company that patrols the parking lot, and then called the police department.

Phelps shared the incidents on Facebook, and at least three others chimed in that they had experienced the same issue themselves, or they knew someone who had.

Though police are aware of the situation and took down reports for the two incidents, an investigation is not currently underway, according to South Lake Tahoe Police Department spokesman Lt. Brian Williams.

“We believe they were put there intentionally, but we don’t investigate property crimes anymore,” said Williams, pointing to state legislation that decriminalized this type of offense to a misdemeanor to free up resources for more serious crimes. “We will be happy to document, and not to say we won’t investigate if we get an investigative lead or a witness, but if we don’t have a named suspect or a strong lead, we don’t have the luxury anymore of assigning a detective to go investigate it.”

The location of where these spikes are being placed is not clear either.

“We don’t know where it’s happening. We believe it has been happening somewhere out on Pioneer Trail between Highway 50 and Meyers, and perhaps in the Al Tahoe area,” added Williams.

Residents who find one of these spikes — or see someone putting them in roads or parking lots — should report it to police immediately.

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