COMMERCE CITY — Two campaigns aimed to educate the public on the risks of car theft in the winter months are under way around town.
Coloradans Against Auto Theft (CAAT) and the Commerce City Police Department have teamed up to increase awareness of car thieves who target “puffers” and vehicles left unattended with valuables inside during the holiday months.
“Puffer” is an expression used by car thieves to describe a vehicle left running and unattended as evidenced by the telltale exhaust vapors visible in cold weather. This alerts thieves that a car is probably unlocked and the keys are in the ignition.
“December marks the start of ‘puffer’ activity season, a time when car thieves go looking for their favorite holiday presents: cars left running unattended,” said Carole Walker, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association/CAAT Co-Chair. “When the weather turns colder, Colorado drivers are more likely to leave their cars running unattended to warm up first thing in the morning or while they run into a store for a quick errand.”
Commerce City recently saw a rash of vehicle break-ins where vehicles were left unattended with personal belongings visible. The police department created an education campaign to remind residents to Lock it or Lose it — especially during the holiday season.
“Lock it or Lose it offers simple steps to protecting your vehicle and serves as a reminder to report any suspicious activity to 911,” said Officer Tom Poe.
According to the Colorado State Patrol, 50 percent of stolen cars have the keys in them, meaning the simple act of removing keys from your vehicle cuts your risk for auto theft in half. Leaving vehicles unattended and running — which is against the law in the state of Colorado — is a crime at least 40 percent of Colorado drivers admit they’ve done.
To avoid being a target:
— Never leave your car running attended, even for a minute.
— Put gifts and all valuables in the trunk or hidden from view.
— Park in well-lit, high-traffic areas.
— Never leave any keys in the car.
— Always lock your car.
— Be aware of your surroundings and report suspicious behavior.
Commerce City officials have placed educational signs throughout the city to remind residents how to protect their vehicles and belongings.