Let cars ‘puff,’ make a thief’s day

Drivers who leave vehicles running 'such an easy target,' sheriff says

Don’t complain if your vehicle gets stolen, especially if it’s an easy target.

That’s what people do when their vehicles are left running to warm up or keys are left inside, said Sgt. Jeff Byrne of the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office.

“Lately we’ve had a couple cars stolen and we just wanted to put another reminder out to the public,” he said. “It’s just a recipe for disaster. It’s an easy opportunity for criminals to victimize you.”

Mesa County Sheriff’s Office handles about 70 cases of stolen vehicles per year. A few vehicles have been stolen lately after people left their vehicles running, a term coined by thieves as “puffing.” The word refers to the telltale sign of exhaust from a tailpipe of a vehicle left running without anyone inside.

Motorists commonly do this to warm up vehicles during cold temperatures. However, motorists also are known to keep their cars running to keep the air conditioning on during the summer months while running inside to a convenience store, or to run other errands.

“It can be a year-round problem for us,” Byrne said.

Two recent incidents illustrate the opportunistic nature of car thieves, according to the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office.

The first example involved a vehicle that was stolen Jan. 8 from the 3200 block of Hall Court. The vehicle was left unlocked. Fruita Police officers pulled over the driver of the stolen vehicle after noticing it had been spray-painted from its original red to black. Brian Richardson, 29, of Grand Junction and Christopher Foster, 29, of Whitewater were arrested in connection with stealing the vehicle, the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office said.

A couple weeks later, on Monday, a Jeep Cherokee that was left idling was stolen from the same block in Clifton. Deputies searched for the vehicle and located it in the parking lot of Clifton’s City Market. Kevin Rohracker, 30, of Grand Junction, who was in the vehicle when deputies arrived, was arrested in connection with stealing that vehicle.

In December, authorities reported that two vehicles that had been idling or “puffing” were stolen.

Byrne said motorists tend to get complacent, leaving their vehicles running or leaving valuables and keys inside.

“They want to walk the Riverfront Trail and they leave their purse in the car,” Byrne said. “Or maybe they don’t want to carry their purse in the store or they leave a bag behind and have a spare set of keys. It makes such an easy target.”

Grand Junction Police Department is launching a campaign next week to remind motorists not to “puff.” Officers are not writing tickets, but instead are hoping to educate motorists of the risks of having valuables stolen.


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