Colorado State Patrol and Coloradans Against Auto Theft have launched “Puff ... Puff ... Poof!” – a new campaign to remind residents of the illegal and dangerous practice of leaving cars unattended while warming up.

“It’s essential to educate Coloradans that auto theft frequently is the gateway to other, serious violent crimes like burglary, identity theft, drug crimes and even homicide,” Colorado State Patrol Chief Col. Scott Hernandez said.

“The seemingly minor act of leaving your car running unattended just opens the door,” he said. “Recent statistics show us crime now rarely stops with a stolen car, and encouraging citizens to do their part to prevent auto theft is an important step in making Colorado safer.”

The Colorado Auto Theft Intelligence Coordination Center reports that auto theft has increased statewide, with 9,331 thefts in 2011, increasing to 11,003 in 2012.

The average value of a stolen vehicle is about $6,000, which amounts to an estimated $66 million in losses for 2012.

According to the Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office, 14 cars have been stolen locally over the past 2 years, seven in 2012 and seven in 2013.

Besides television and online advertising, Coloradans Against Auto Theft has a website, lockdownyourcar.org, which offers information about auto theft prevention and a hot-spot map with geo-locator tool, to allow residents to search auto thefts in their area.

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