Letting a car idle unattended, known as “puffing,” is generally illegal in Colorado, and starting Jan. 26 law enforcement will crack down on the practice.

Carole Walker, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Association, said that common excuses for puffing include, “ ‘I just went in to get some coffee.’ ‘I just ran back into the house to get my bag.’ ‘I just left my car for a second.’ That’s all it takes for a thief to make off with your car.”

Auto theft typically increases in the winter months, when drivers are prone to letting their cars idle unattended to warm up.

The sponsors of “Puffer Week” are Coloradans Against Auto Theft and Colorado Auto Theft Investigators, both of which receive state funding. Last year during the crackdown, law enforcement made contact with 660 people. A first offense citation for idling unattended costs $60.

So named for the puff of exhaust from the vehicle, the Colorado Department of Public Safety warned that thieves take advantage of puffing by often driving around in pairs, with one person ready to jump out of the thieves’ car and into the unattended car.

There were 20,230 vehicles stolen statewide in 2019, and those vehicles had the high potential for use in subsequent crimes. The one exception to the anti-puffing law is for owners of cars with remote-start devices.

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