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County now using magnetic sweeper to pick up tacks off Hawthorne Bridge path

Posted by on January 29th, 2015 at 10:11 am

magnetthingys

They’re coming for you tacks!
(Photo: Multnomah County)

Three weeks after we heard our first reports of thumbtacks scattered somewhere around the ramps of the Hawthorne Bridge, fresh reports keep coming in.

tacks on tire

Image sent by a reader of a
tack picked up at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday.

“(Tuesday) they found about 12 tacks, Monday they found about 20 and Friday they found in the 20 to 40 range,” Multnomah County spokesman Mike Pullen told KOIN-TV yesterday. Also yesterday we heard from KOIN reporter Elishah Oesch that her cameraman picked up 14 tacks from the east end of the path near the TriMet bus stop.

The county, which maintains the Hawthorne, Morrison, Burnside and Sellwood bridges, said Wednesday that it’s made a new plan to protect the safety and property of bridge users: it’s going to sweep the bridge daily with a large magnet.

County spokesman Mike Pullen told us yesterday that, “We are now having staff walk down the sidewalks and bike lanes with a large magnet to find the tacks. Very strange situation.”

Pullen added that the County can help the Portland Police Bureau document the incidents. For their part, the PPB has yet to make any public statement about the incidents. According to KOIN-TV’s report Sgt. Pete Simpson, a PPB spokesman, said Wednesday that no formal reports have been made. (Note that this doesn’t mean no one has called the police, just that no reports have been officially filed.)

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There’s no justification for this sort of vandalism, of course, and no telling what might be in the mind of the person or people doing it. It’s possible that someone is upset about people who pass too fast or too close while biking across the bridge; it’s just as possible that this is a completely random series of attacks.

tacks-koin-lead

Screenshot from KOIN.com.

But whatever is going on here, the number of separate incidents suggests it’s more than a coincidence or an idle prank. Back in 2011, similar tack attacks on North Williams and Vancouver Avenues continued for several weeks but eventually abated.

When the first incident happened early this month, we brushed it aside as an isolated incident; but now that it has continued and shows no sign of letting up, we think a more serious response from PPB is warranted. An enforcement solution is probably not feasible at this time, but we’d like to see the PPB and/or Multnomah County issue some sort of joint statement about the problem.

A strongly worded statement could have three key benefits: It would show the community that the PPB takes this crime seriously; the statement, and resulting media coverage, might scare the perpetrator(s) into stopping; and it would raise the awareness of the incidents and possibly lead to new tips or information that could lead to an arrest.

On several past occasions, when vandals slashed automobile tires in southeast Portland, the PPB issued a press release (using their “Crime Stoppers” program) and encouraged the public to call in tips. These tack incidents are just as serious as the slashing of auto tires and should met with a similar response.

The Hawthorne is Portland’s most-biked bridge and one of the highest bike traffic spots in North America. This time of year, it carries about 4,000 to 6,000 bike trips on a typical weekday.

If you happen to witness anyone who seems to be responsible for similar vandalism, you can call 911 to report them. If you become the victim of one of these incidents, call the police non-emergency line at (503) 823-3333 or use the police bureau’s online reporting tool. That may at least add pressure on police to dedicate some resources to the issue.

Jonathan Maus contributed to this story.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

I guess no one makes brass tacks anymore.

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

Where’s Big Brother and the ubiquitous surveillance cameras when you need him?

Paul Souders
Guest

“These tack incidents are just as serious as the slashing of auto tires and should met with a similar response.”

As serious as slashing auto tires WHILE THE CAR IS MOVING.

Adam H.
Guest
Adam H.

Better yet, PBOT should just hand out free Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires to everyone.

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

You want this to stop? Offer an enhanced reward/bounty for homeless people.

Now I suppose that the fact that this bout of “tacking” is isolated to the Hawthorne is indicative of some sort of territorial snit from some mentally unstable homeless person. This just means that the reward needs to be higher.

Realistically the homeless are the best surveillance system: people go out of their way NOT to notice the homeless but look for cameras.
Just because a person is homeless doesn’t make them care less about others or make them worth less as a person.

Someone down there knows; perhaps the real question is what is going on so bad that no one has ratted out the tacker?

TonyT
Guest
Tony T

I would also keep an eye on the Steel bridge. If the attention on the Hawthorne scares them off, I bet they just move somewhere else.

Loaf
Guest
Loaf

I got “tack”-ed Monday evening east-bound across the bridge. I sent an email to the county address listed in the previous article, but received no response. Should I also submit a police report?

Granpa
Guest
Granpa

I have seen the magnet man twice this week and made a point to thank him.
FWIW I have the Schwalbe Marathon and had two flats in the last two weeks. a chunk of glass was deeply imbedded in the tread, but only poked the tube when it was under pressure and under weight. (I ultimately dug that sucker out and it was a great relief)

Joe
Guest
Joe

bike haters why they hate?

9watts
Guest
9watts

“These tack incidents are just as serious as the slashing of auto tires and should met with a similar response.”

Thanks for that comparison. I think these are really instructive.

It would make an interesting list to tally up all the parallel instances like this, showing the degree to which things that happen to people who drive/their conveyances are taken seriously as a matter of course.

Stretchy
Guest
Stretchy

It would be hard for cameras to pick up the perpetrator. The motion of scattering a handful of tacks wouldn’t be that obvious and it’s unlikely a regular security camera would have the resolution to be able to actually see the tacks coming out of someone’s hand.

Stretchy
Guest
Stretchy

One other thing, it would be helpful to have a large amount of specific data to determine when the tacks appear. Rather than just generic, “I got hit Tuesday morning” you could post, “Eastbound Hawthorne, 8:45am, Jan 27, tacks found”

If several people crossed eastbound earlier that morning and, had no problems you could infer that the perpetrator scattered the tacks in the morning.

This in and of itself is not helpful but, if a pattern emerges, you could keep an eye out during the likeliest times and perhaps stand a better chance of catching someone in the act.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Admin

Just updated post with picture of the magnetic sweeper brooms the County is using…

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

With all the tacks they’ll be collecting with this technique they should be able to create a mosaic of interlocking segments of a complete fingerprint of the perpetrator.
No single tack will have a full print but with this many tacks a full print must exist once the puzzle pieces are put together.

Paul
Guest
Paul

If the tack sweep occurs same time everyday (let’s say early morning), and the perp is someone nearby with a lot of free time, then it’s not going to very hard for them to come in and re-tack after the sweep. I hope this is not the case, but hopefully they’ll get seen, and we can narrow down the time when this atrocious vandalism occurs.

JJJJ
Guest
JJJJ

I love the fact that at some point in time, someone decided that buying a magnetic sweeper would be a good idea. “See Jerry? I TOLD YOU WE’D NEED THEM” I hope they were charged to Homeland Security

Allison
Guest
Allison

I’d like to contribute to a “Buy the person who is going out to the bridge to run the magnetic sweeper a coffee” fund. Anyone else in?

Leaf_blower
Guest
Leaf_blower

It’d be easier to use a leaf blower and blow all the tax away in case the tacker wisens up and goes with brass tax. Car and bus tires are impervious to thumb tax.

April
Guest
April

Someone one dumped a whole box of them into the bike lane of se 52nd, just south of Foster. I borrowed a broom from a local resident and swept them all into the curb. And then walked to a bike shop because I had two flats via nine tacks.

John Landolfe
Guest

Thank you, county!

tom
Guest
tom

what an a##hole. people walk there dogs across that bridge too.

Oregon Mamacita
Guest
Oregon Mamacita

Has anyone mapped the tack attacks?

It looks like someone is meting out group justice to remedy a situation.
Or, they could hate one person. It could be politically motivated (wacko politics) or it could be someone with a mental illness.

Also- while the guilty party or parties (copycats) are 100% behaving in an oppressive, nasty and aggressive manner, the BP readers risking making the situation worse by “they hate us cuz they ain’t us” remarks.

If you are searching for the truth, what if the truth turns out to be a person with a legitimate point who then uses that point as a springboard into a cowardly attack on the general public. You won’t be to process the truth if it involves something unflattering about men in spandex, or buzzing pedestrians.

Because- I can tell you with 100% certainty- the guilty party(ies) are cowards. Whoever the guilty party is they aren’t an outlaw motorcycle gang or MMA fighters.

Now, get yr heads out of the sand about how the spandex/showers pass crowd is viewed by the general public. You may be perceived as aggressors and not attractive victims of resentment.