DENVER - Coloradans Against Auto Theft and Colorado Auto Theft Investigators once again teamed up for this year's "Puffer Week," slated for Jan. 27 through 31.
The week-long statewide awareness and enforcement push aims to educate the public about the risks, dangers and heightened crime associated with auto theft, specifically "puffers" - cars left running unattended.
A January 2014 statewide survey conducted by Talmey-Drake Research on behalf of CAAT, shows over half of respondents say they know someone who has had their car stolen; yet only 26 percent expressed concern that their own car might be stolen. And while 70 percent of Coloradans think a running car left unattended is a top way cars get stolen, nearly a quarter say they've done it.
"What this new poll tells us is that the majority of Colorado drivers still think of car theft as something that happens to everyone BUT them," Carole Walker, Executive Director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association and CAAT co-chair, said. "It's this skew in perception and the increasingly dangerous outcomes of auto theft that drive our statewide education efforts. We see an increase in the awareness that "puffing" is illegal, but people still don't think their car will be stolen and admit they sometimes take their chances just to warm up their car."
"Puffers" accounted for nearly 15 percent of all auto thefts in 2013, averaging seven stolen vehicles per day, 35 per week. Not surprisingly, cold-season months, with the peak month being January, produced the highest number of "puffer" thefts.
As part of Colorado's auto theft prevention efforts, the Attorney General's Auto Theft Initiative fully supports "Puffer Week" and the strong public partnership driving its efforts. "CATI partners with CAAT to localize enforcement efforts and bring personal awareness and accountability to the rising auto theft problem," says Dana Chavez, Colorado Attorney General's Criminal Investigator II, Special Prosecutions/Auto Theft and President of CATI. "Last year, 11,304 cars were reported stolen, and increasingly we are seeing auto theft as a gateway to other violent and drug-related crimes. It takes a combination of law enforcement working together with the public to combat and prevent auto theft."
As part of continued education efforts initiated by CAAT's Lockdown campaign earlier this winter, "Puffer Week" activities will roll out statewide through the distribution of informational fliers and Lockdown-branded ice scrapers, along with an increase in issued warnings and citations to those who leave their cars running unattended.
Poll results indicate many Coloradans perceive auto theft as a crime enabling joyriding and the stripping down and selling of car parts, but the reality is auto theft is fueled by other more dangerous motives and activities.
"While leaving your car running unattended to warm up doesn't seem like a big risk, earlier this month we had a stolen 'puffer' vehicle that was used in illegal street racing and ultimately resulted in the tragic death of a teenager in Aurora," says Jeff Turner, Traffic Section Lieutenant with the city of Aurora. "It's a sad reminder that stolen vehicles are often used to commit serious crimes and another reason to think twice before making your car an easy target for a thief."
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