Dear Tire Guy | March 2021
My mother once gave me some profound advice that I've held near and dear to my heart up until this very dary. When I was just a boy, struggling with some smarth-mouth behavioral issues, (go figure) she told me, "Son, don't do the crime if you can't do the time. But if you DO do the crim, don't do it in an easily identifiable vehicle and get busted like an idiot." *sigh* Good old mom. The woman is a saint. And also super unaware that I'm cracking jokes here at her expense. Anyways, ol' momsy knew something that I didn't. That there is a small group of elite Tire Guys tracking down idiot criminals in identifiable vehicles. Let me tell you about tire forensics experts.
By comparing tire impressions recovered from a crime scene to the tires on a specific vehicle, tire forensics experts can identify vehicles used in criminal acts and therefore help identify suspects. Tread patterns, small stones, or other debris in the tread can distinguish one tier from another, almost as individually unique as fingerprints in some cases, even within the same brand and model.
One such expert was the late Pete McDonald. He spent 28 years as Firestone's director of tire design before he entered the forensics field. Using crime scene photos and plaster molds, he would skim books, searching through thousands of tire designs until, as he told it to the Cleveland Press in 1982, "The tire I'm looking for just jumps out from the page." He told People Magazine that using this method he could identify the brand of any given tire "in less than a day." He helped bring and estimated 20 suspects to justice and aided in several high-profile cases including the Oklahoma City bombings. In 1989 he published the book "Tire Imprint Evidence" detailing his methods and techniques for tire impression and identification, which served as the gold standard in the field for many years thereafter.
I know I don't typically deal in true crime, but my wife has me on this kick lately. If you have an interest in true crime as well, you don't need to be a Tire Guy or Girl to find his work intriguing. Especially one particularly involved sting on a murder suspect (who didn't listen to my mom) that took place in Largo, FL. Don't murder people. And check your air pressure. Until next month, drive on!