In an attempt at an April Fools’ Day political statement, tires on more than 300 cars near the UW campus were deflated Tuesday.
Messages stuck in the cars’ windshield wipers said “Happy Fossil Fuel Day! Drive Less.”
Joel DeSpain, public information officer for the Madison Police Department, said police have no description of anyone responsible, but speculate it could have been an environmental group.
Cars parked on Iota Court, Langdon, Monroe and Williamson Streets had BB gun pellets placed inside their air caps, putting pressure on the valves and slowly deflating tires.
Generally one tire was deflated on each car.
MPD started receiving complaints about flat tires early Tuesday morning and by the afternoon was receiving so many calls dispatchers started referring people to fill out complaint reports online, DeSpain said.
DeSpain said MPD is not going to assign detectives to investigate the case further because “there are a lot of other bigger crimes going on in the community.”
“We realize people have been inconvenienced, and it was not a nice thing to do, but at the same time it’s not serious property damage, and no one has been injured,” DeSpain said.
Mike Barreau, the second-shift dispatcher at Schmidt’s Auto Inc. of Madison said Schmidt’s employees were dispatched to at least 100 flat tires on the UW campus.
The auto body usually charges $40 to pump up deflated tires, but for this situation it charged $20, Barreau said.
“Part of me says it’s hilarious, and the part of me that’s working says it’s sort of cruel,” he said. “I wonder if these guys wonder how much money they are costing people.”
UW sophomore Megan Fahey said she returned to the University House Langdon parking lot around 12:15 p.m. to find her car and two other friends’ cars with flat tires.
“Since all of us had flats, I assumed someone slashed them,” Fahey said.
Fahey called the non-emergency police dispatcher who told her a group of people protesting fossil fuels were deflating tires all around the city.
According to Fahey, many of the cars parked on Langdon Street not directly in front of a window had tires deflated.
“I mean it’s not really effective,” she said about deflating tires. “People still had to have a tow truck come and waste his fossil fuel. It was very, very rude, and now I’m nervous to go park my car there again.”
Fahey and her friends paid $44 each for a towing company to refill the tires.
“This should probably be the main concern for the downtown cops for the next couple days,” she said. “[The culprits] were clearly very sneaky, and no one caught them.”
DeSpain said anyone caught will likely be charged with a disorderly conduct misdemeanor ticket.
“Fun is fun, but this is sort of over the line,” Barreau said.