Never leave your car running unattended.If you have ever contemplated leaving your car running unattended—even for just a moment—to quickly run into the grocery store,or into the pharmacy to pick up a prescription; or especially during the winter to let your car warm up, while waiting warmly inside, you may want to reconsider. That’s when auto theft happens.

Surprisingly, 50 percent of stolen vehicles are cars left running or that have the keys in them, as thieves see the telltale sign of exhaust “puffing” from the warming car with no owner in sight.

AAA Colorado is joining Coloradans Against Auto Theft (CAAT) in its statewide public awareness campaign warning Colorado drivers about the dangers, and illegal practice of, leaving cars running unattended. So-called “puffers” contribute to Colorado’s auto theft problem, which rose nearly 5% in 2013 according to the Colorado Auto Theft Intelligence Coordination Center.

The simple act of leaving your car running unattended can have extremely serious consequences. Recently, a “puffer” vehicle theft ended in violence with an Aurora Police Officer being shot during a routine traffic stop. “Too often we don’t consider the repercussions of making cars an easy target for thieves and how our vehicle will be used by these criminals,” says Lieutenant Jeff Foster, Aurora Police Department and Commander of the East Metro Auto Theft Team (EMATT).

Auto theft has been deemed a crime of opportunity. “Puffer” thefts can happen anywhere, anytime when made easy for thieves.While “puffer” thefts are a year-round problem, auto theft spikes during winter, when the cold weather tempts people to leave their cars unattended to warm up.

Ways to prevent auto theft:

  • Never leave your car running unattended—it’s illegal in Colorado and a clear invitation for thieves. Warm up with your car instead.
  • Out shopping? Put gifts and all valuables in the trunk or hidden from view.
  • Always lock your car and park in well-lit areas.
  • Don’t keep a spare set of keys in the car.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and report suspicious behavior to a non-emergency police line.

For more information visit lockdownyourcar.org.