Local police warn against ‘puffing’


The ice scraper being given out by local police to remind folks not to leave their cars running and unlocked to warm up.

With some of the frigid temperatures seen in the county in recent weeks, it’s understandable wanting to start and pre-warm your car, but local police are warning about the risks of “puffing” to keep warm on a cold morning.

Coatesville Police and the PA Auto Theft Prevention Authority (ATPA) warn drivers not to leave their cars unlocked, unattended, and running — “puffing” to warm up this winter and throughout the year.

As a reminder, police officers are distributing ice scrapers with a prevention message, and offering free posters to local businesses to help raise awareness, especially in convenience stores.

Last year, 17 cars were stolen in Coatesville and 220 in Chester County.

“Most of these are preventable crimes,” said Coatesville Police Sgt. Rodger Ollis. “If citizens will help us, we can almost eliminate auto theft from our community. We would also like to remind people to remove all valuables from their vehicles. Property stolen from vehicles is a persistent problem. We had 31 cases of theft from vehicle in 2015. Remove anything valuable and always remember to lock the car.”

Auto theft has a ripple effect. Stolen cars are often used to commit other violent crimes that impact the community. If you leave mail, bills, work files, other sensitive information, house keys or garage door opener in your car, you are now also vulnerable to identity theft or burglary of your home.

“Locking your car is the first line of defense,” said Steve Wheeler, executive director of the Pennsylvania Auto Theft Prevention Authority. “It’s not a fancy message. It’s common sense but not common practice. About half of Pennsylvania’s stolen cars were left unlocked, many with the keys inside.”

AAA, urges motorists to inquire with their auto insurance agent about discounts for anti-theft and/or vehicle recovery devices.

“Pennsylvania is one of nine states that requires insurers to provide car owners with discounts on comprehensive insurance rates for anti-theft devices,” said Jana L. Tidwell, Manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “This discount is applied when the vehicle has an activated factory or after-market recovery device or tracking system such as GM’s OnStar system, LoJack, or Teletrac. Such devices have been quite successful in not only recovering stolen vehicles, but also leading law enforcement to chop shops and thwarting the export of stolen cars.”

According to Pennsylvania state insurance guidelines, if the anti-theft device is factory installed the VIN number should trigger the discount. If the anti-theft device was installed after-market, proof on installation (usually in the form of an installation receipt) will be required to receive the discount.

In addition, AAA reiterates that puffing is unnecessary when it comes to your car’s ability to per-form on the road. “Today’s automobiles have fuel injection systems rather than carburetors so they do not need a long warm up time to keep from having drivability concerns,” notes Tidwell. “Even in very cold temperatures, modern vehicles (those built since 1990) require no more than 10 to 30 seconds to get the oil moving through the engine.”

Following these simple, common sense tips, at home, work, or while on vacation, can spare you the hassle and expense of having your car stolen:

• Lock the car, take the keys, every time. For most drivers, it’s a habit to either leave the keys in the car, or to take them with you. If it’s not a habit for you, consciously make the decision to double check that you have your keys as you walk away from the vehicle. No place is safe from vehicle theft, even your driveway.

• No puffing: Do not leave your car running and unattended. While it’s tempting to let the heater keep the car warm while you run into grab a cup of coffee, it only takes a thief a few seconds to steal your car. It is also illegal to leave your car running and unattended on a public road in Pennsylvania.

• Don’t leave valuables in your car. Leaving cell phones, mail, garage door openers, wallets, computers, or other valuables in the car attracts thieves and invite identity theft or burglary.

Created in 1994 by the General Assembly, the Pennsylvania Auto Theft Prevention Authority combats auto theft by providing grants statewide to law enforcement agencies, conducting public education initiatives, and providing specialized training. Since inception, the Commonwealth has seen a 73% decrease in vehicle theft compared to the national decrease of 53%. For more information about auto theft in Pennsylvania, statistics, and resources, visit www.watchyourcar.org.

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