Two adults and two juveniles were arrested this week after authorities said they were involved in setting two car fires and slashing the tires of more than 40 vehicles.
Upper Perk Police are estimating damages in excess of $25,000 as calls continue to come in reporting vandalism.
Police arrested Paul Sipple, 18, of the 300 block of Jefferson Street, East Greenville, and Luke Buffenmeyer, 18, of the 1300 block of Huffs Church Road, Hereford, Monday on felony charges of arson and criminal mischief, as well as possessing an instrument of crime and disorderly conduct.
Police said the pair’s accomplices, a 15-year-old East Greenville boy and a 17-year-old Perkiomenville boy, were arrested Friday.
Sipple, Buffenmeyer and the juveniles are accused of slashing vehicle tires at random in Pennsburg, East Greenville, Hereford, Upper Hanover and Red Hill in a widespread crime spree March 16-29. The majority of the vehicles targeted had a minimum of two tires punctured with a sharp object, believed to be a knife.
The teens are also charged with setting two vehicle fires, one in the 400 block of Railroad Street in East Greenville during the overnight hours of March 22-23. That vehicle, a 2002 Volkswagen Jetta, had minimal damage.
Authorities said a Cracker Jack box was found burned inside the vehicle on the front seat, but the fire reportedly burned itself out before spreading. The vehicle owner reportedly found the damage the next morning when she went to leave for work.
The second vehicle fire, a March 27 blaze around 11 p.m. in the 200 block of Dotts Street, was actually witnessed by a neighbor who reportedly saw one of the subjects throwing something inside a 2011 Subaru Legacy at the location.
After seeing flames, and realizing what he saw, the witness called police. Neighbors and two Pennsburg firefighters reportedly put the fire out with fire extinguishers.
A spray paint can was allegedly found on the driver’s seat of the Subaru.
Bev Pearson, the victim of that arson, said in addition to her car being set on fire, her husband’s work truck also had two tires slashed multiple times.
“I want to know what they were thinking, what they’re getting out of this,” Pearson said Tuesday of the arsonists/vandals. “They are estimating my car at at least $8,000 in damages, but if they can’t get the smoke out they could total it. That car is only two years old."
Pearson, who is currently driving a rental car, noted the crimes caused financial hardships and inconveniences for many victims.
“Insurance doesn’t pay for the whole thing,” she said of the car rental. “There were a lot of people put out by this. We are relieved that they caught the guys and that they’re off the streets.”
Tatjana “Tot” Schantz,of 202 Main Street, said her 2003 Subaru Outback was damaged by the vandals March 22. The subjects punctured one of her tires several times.
“We just put brand new tires on that car in October,” Schantz said. “I think they [the accused] should be held responsible. They should have to make good for what they did.”
Schantz said she and her husband had to pay for the new tire out of pocket, as did other victims interviewed, because people’s deductibles were in excess of the damages.
A week later, the teens slashed two tires on a 2002 Toyota Tacoma belonging to Schantz’s neighbor, Nancy Interrante.
“I’m just glad they caught them,” Interrante said when asked about the crime.
Her sentiments were echoed by other residents who were breathing a sigh of relief upon news of the arrests. Area tire stores were reportedly swamped because of the sheer number of vehicles vandalized. Some victims said they found themselves traveling out of the area to get new tires to return to work and their "everyday lives" as soon as possible.
Police said the 15-year-old and the 17-year-old were charged for the Railroad Street arson, while Sipple, Buffenmeyer and the 17-year-old were charged for the Dotts Street fire. The crimes were reportedly committed in a green 1997 Hyundai Accent belonging to the 17-year-old’s family.
The teens were caught by police as they fled the scene of a tire slashing in the 300 block of 3rd Street in East Greenville Friday. Upper Perk Police Chief Michael Devlin had assigned plain clothes officers on surveillance details throughout the two boroughs, authorities said Monday.
Police said they executed a search warrant on the Hyundai Monday and seized additional evidence linking the teens to the crimes.
Sipple and Buffenmeyer were arraigned Monday by District Judge Catherine Hummel-Fried, who set bail at $75,000 unsecured for each. Both teens were later released. They will appear in Red Hill District Court for a preliminary hearing April 9 at 11:15 a.m.
Police said one juvenile was detained at the Montgomery County Juvenile Detention Center and the other was released at a detention hearing Monday. A juvenile court hearing for both is scheduled for April 8 in Norristown.
Police are asking anyone who may have been a victim of tire slashing to call (215)679-8203 and file a report. Police are also requesting victims obtain receipts for the replacement costs of the tires for restitution purposes.