It’s part of your routine. You turn on your car and leave it running to heat up, but just for a few minutes while you finish getting ready for the day.
“These cars get stolen and it can happen to you,” says Steven Wheeler, who is with the Pennsylvania Auto Theft Prevention Authority.
It’s illegal in Pennsylvania for you to leave your car unlocked, unattended, and running on a public road, even if you’re just running into your office or home for a few minutes, “You might as well roll out a red carpet for a thief. “Puffers” can be stolen in seconds, whether it’s in your driveway or at the gas station. There’s no safe place.”
In some municipalities it’s illegal to leave your car running on private property, like your driveway or a parking lot. The Pennsylvania Auto Theft Prevention Authority is working with local police to launch a state-wide campaign to raise awareness against what they call “puffers,” or unattended running vehicles. They say a car in this state is stolen every 40 minutes.
“Lock your car. Take your keys, every time,” Wheeler advises.
It can happen quickly. Video shows a man leaving his car running as he heads into a store. Less than 30 seconds later two men are seen driving it away.
Wheeler says cars are typically taken for their parts. A car can be worth $3,000, but the thief will receive $5,000 for the car parts.
Johnstown Police Chief Craig Foust says this mistake typically leads to bigger crime in our region, “Somebody will steal a car, trade it to a drug dealer for their exclusive use to transport narcotics, and that leads to all kinds of issues for the owner.”
The numbers in the Johnstown area have been consistent over the years, but the police department wants to fix this issue in an effort to reduce crime.