A weapon used for centuries is endangering motorists on a major roadway in Texas.

Caltrops, sometimes called “stop spikes,” have been recovered by police in the state along Interstate 20 throughout July. The Smith County Sheriff’s Office on July 9 reported more than 30 were recovered over a week. The sheriff’s office confirmed to USA TODAY more were found Tuesday morning. 

In all, about 300 caltrops have been located, SCSO spokesman Sgt. Larry Christian told USA TODAY in an email. Some were found before the sheriff’s office was made aware of the situation, he said. 

The I-20 is known as the Ronald Reagan Memorial Highway within the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. The spiked caltrops have been found roughly 100 miles east of Dallas.

“This device is a tire deflation device and is a prohibited weapon by the Texas Penal Code,” the sheriff’s office said on its Facebook page. “A person commits an offense if the person intentionally or knowingly possesses, manufactures, transports, repairs, or sells a tire deflation device. This offense is a state jail felony.”

A tire deflated by a caltrop on I-20 in Smith County, Texas.

Christian said no injuries have been reported as a result of the caltrops, but added, “we are extremely concerned of the potential for this to occur.” He said he’s not sure how many cars have been damaged because of the caltrops, “but I believe many go unreported.” 

According to the CIA, “A caltrop is a device—usually made out of metal—with four spikes arranged in such a way that when any three spikes rest on the ground, the fourth points upward.”

The agency added, “Caltrops are very useful in slowing the advance of troops attacking by vehicle or animal — horses, camels, and war elephants.”

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Even in the absence of war elephants in The Lone Star State, caltrops are “a dangerous road hazard,” according to the Smith County Sheriff’s Office.

The caltrops were found in the eastern part of the state, on I-20 between Smith County and Van Zandt County. Christian said he wasn’t aware of caltrops being found in other locations in Texas. 

“These devices are made of rebar and are approximately three inches in size,” the Smith County Sheriff’s Office wrote in a July 9 Facebook post. “They are welded, sharpened at every point and painted black. Texas Department of Transportation maintenance crews have stepped up debris collection in an ongoing effort to remove this dangerous road hazard.”

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The Smith’s County Sheriff’s Office and the Texas Department of Transportation did not respond to requests for comment from USA TODAY. 

Caltrops have been used as early as 331 B.C., according to the CIA’s website. 

“Caltrops have been used throughout history in Europe, Asia, North Africa and the New World,” according to the CIA. “However, caltrops are often overlooked in favor of more impressive warfare weaponry, such as bombs or poison gas.

“The unfortunate soul who stumbles across a caltrop during battle has healthy fear and respect for the silent weapon.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Texas police warn motorists of caltrops made of rebar in roadways



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