DENVER — Bitter cold temperatures often brings a rise in something law enforcement consistently warns against — "puffing."
"Puffing" is a term describing leaving a car to warm up attended. It can be tempting for people when extra time is necessary to defrost windshields or scrape off ice.
"Puffers" are easy targets for thieves. Denver Police said at least two cars left running and unattended were taken Tuesday morning.
“People think auto theft is something that’s never going to happen to them," said Carole Walker, chair of Coloradans Against Auto Theft (CAAT). "They can’t resist the temptation. They never think they’re going to come back out and have their car gone.”
Last week was Puffer Week when officers reminded citizens that puffing is illegal, except for vehicles with a remote start. Even in those cases, drivers must keep the keyless start fob away from the car so that the vehicle can’t be moved.
The statistics from this year aren't currently available, but during Puffer Week in 2019, law enforcement around the state engaged with more than 660 citizens to help create awareness about auto theft risks due to puffers, according to the group Colorado Auto Theft Investigators (CATI).
“We can push a message out there, but you as a citizen, you as a driver, you need to take responsibility and just don’t do it," Walker said.
If you're caught puffing, the citation will cost you $60 for the first offense.
Colorado Auto Theft Intelligence Coordination Center (ATICC) data shows that 20,230 vehicle thefts were reported in 2019. Stolen vehicles are often used in subsequent crimes, such as armed robbery, identity theft, home invasion and drug-related offenses, ATICC said.
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