'Puffing' season is here, but it can lead to stolen car, ticket

October 2, 2012
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Forecasts of freezing temperatures make it tempting to start one’s vehicle and dash back through the cold to a nice, warm building while that icy car or truck warms up.

A stolen vehicle in Colorado Springs on Tuesday morning reminds all, however, that such a simple notion could have extreme consequences — beyond the loss of a vehicle.

As in Tuesday’s incident, the thief can pull a gun or some other weapon to ensure a successful theft.

Another, less violent outcome, could mean a $60 ticket and a court date for the owner, who would be in violation the Colorado Springs’ “puffing” law. The illegal act gets its name from the prominent puffs of exhaust that rise into the air on chilly morning, attracting would-be criminals.

“It draws a lot of attention to the vehicle,” said police spokeswoman Barabara Miller. “We’re trying to reduce preventable auto theft and keep people safe.”

Tuesday’s theft happened sometime before 6:45 a.m. on Audubon Drive in central Colorado Springs.

With temperatures dipping below 40 degrees, the owner of a yellow 2010 Dodge Challenger pulled his car out of the garage and decided to give it a few minutes to warm up before taking his kids to school, police said.

He went into the home and suddenly heard his car accelerate. The man darted back outside and saw someone in the Challenger. The victim tried twice to pull the thief from the vehicle, but wisely gave up after the car-jacker pulled a handgun from his waistband and drove away.

Fotunately for the owner, the car was found about 10 a.m. in what Miller called “perfect condition.” The thief, however, remained at-large Tuesday afternoon.

The owner of the Dodge was once again fortunate as he did not receive a citation for “puffing.”

“For tickets, especially nonmoving violations, officers have discretion,” Miller said, noting that in early fall officers usually hand out warnings for “puffing” and inform violators of possible dangers of leaving running vehicles unattended.

Wintery temperatures will begin to invade the Colorado Springs area this week making it more important for vehicle owners to be aware of the “puffing” law, Miller said.

According to the National Weather Service, temperatures will fall to around 32 degrees Wednesday and Thursday night and flirt with the high 20s overnight on Saturday.

Contact Matt Steiner at 636-0362 or follow him on Twitter @gazsteiner.

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