Don’t leave it running, say police

CHRISTOPHER TOMLINSON/The Daily Sentinel—Exhaust pours from the tailpipe of a car left running at a convenience store at 2525 Broadway. The Western Colorado Auto Theft Task Force has begun an awareness campaign, “Puff, Puff, Poof!”

Let’s face it, most of us are guilty.

When the temperature dips to bone-numbing temperatures, we like to warm up our vehicles before hopping in.

This practice puts law enforcement on edge. For starters, it’s illegal in Colorado to leave a car running unattended. While police officers probably won’t cite residents for doing it, they warn that a running vehicle is a green light for thieves to snatch a car.

“It’s cold, we understand that people don’t want their cars to be cold when they’re in them,” said Kate Porras, spokeswoman for the Grand Junction Police Department. “Thieves will take advantage of any time to take your car.”

Members of Western Colorado Auto Theft Task Force are using an educational campaign dubbed, “Puff, Puff, Poof!” to get across the message. “Puffing” is a term to describe vehicles left running unattended, a play on the image of exhaust escaping a car’s tailpipe.

According to Porras, 39 vehicles with keys inside were stolen in Grand Junction last year. At least some of those stolen vehicles were running when stolen, she said.

Just last Sunday, a local man had his truck stolen after idling it outside a convenience store at the intersection of 29 Road and North Avenue.

“He came out just in time to hear his tires squealing away,” Porras said.

Officers later recovered the vehicle, she said.

Even if a vehicle is running with locked doors, a thief can smash a window to get in and get away, Porras said. Along with a free car, a thief can get away with personal information listed on insurance cards and registration. A garage door opener left in a vehicle with a listed address makes your home a prime target for getting robbed, Porras said.

Additionally, stolen vehicles increase vehicle insurance rates for all.

Last year, 11,003 car thefts were reported in Colorado. That’s a jump from the previous year, in 2011, when 9,331 vehicles were reported stolen.

According to Carole Walker, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association, the average value of a stolen vehicle is $6,000. That amounts to an estimated $66 million in annual losses in Colorado.


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Many vehicles have a remote start button on the key fob. Such a vehicle cannot be stolen without the thief having possession of the key fob which will not be in the vehicle but inside the home or on the person of the owner.

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