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Weld County Sheriff’s Office warns residents about theft risk with ‘puffers’

Posted on 11/19/2020

Now that the cold weather is officially here, the Weld County Sheriff’s Office would like to remind residents not to make their vehicles an easy target for theft.

Car thieves thrive during the late fall and winter months by targeting “puffers,” or a vehicle left on and unattended by its owner while it warms up. The nickname stems from the puff of the exhaust visible during cold weather.

It should go without saying thieves search for puffers because they are an easy target, and stolen cars are often used to commit other crimes. What’s not as widely known is puffing is Class B traffic infraction in Colorado, which means in addition to being the victim of a theft, a vehicle owner can also be fined up to $100 for leaving their car unattended, according to state law. The only exception to the law relates to vehicles with a remote ignition system.

The sheriff’s office investigates a handful of puffer thefts each year. The first of the season occurred on Sunday.

In addition to a seasonal uptick in auto thefts due to puffers, the sheriff’s office continues to receive a high number of reports of stolen vehicles that were unlocked at the time of the crime. Of the 130 vehicles reported stolen so far this year, 57, or 44 percent, were unlocked with the key inside the car.

Among those 130 stolen vehicles, eight were farm or construction vehicles, 15 were motorcycles, 20 were passenger cars, 68 were pickups, 15 were SUVs and four were vans. To date, deputies have recovered 91, or 70 percent, of the vehicles reported stolen so far in 2020.

The sheriff’s office is asking residents to take the following steps to prevent auto theft this winter: 

  • Stay with your car when warming it up.

  • Grab a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and sit in your car. Windshields typically begin to defrost within a couple of minutes.

  • As your car is warming up, scrape the windshield and windows.

  • Lock your car and take the key with you.

Anyone with information regarding this or any other crime is asked to call the Weld County Sheriff’s Office at (970) 356-4015 or Northern Colorado Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477). Tips can also be submitted through the Crime Stoppers website at www.crimeshurt.com. Those submitting tips through Crime Stoppers that lead to the arrest and filing of charges on a suspect(s) may be eligible for a cash reward.