DENVER (CBS4) – Police are sending out a warning for drivers not to leave cars running unattended in the bitterly cold conditions in Colorado this week.

“Puffer” crimes — when a robber steals a car that’s running — skyrocket during the coldest temperatures, according to authorities. When it’s cold running cars leave a visible exhaust trail and when no one is in the driver’s seat criminals see an easy target.

Some police agencies are deploying decoy cars to catch thieves in the act.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Denver mom Nettie Bell told CBS4 she was a victim of a puffer crime. Her car was stolen while she was dropping her son off at a family member’s house.

She believes the thieves were hunting for unattended cars. She said she left her car for less than a minute, and that was enough time for at least two men to pull up and take the vehicle without anyone noticing.

“They peeled out. You could tell in the snow that they had really taken off,” she said.

Bell had just purchased the 2004 Kia Sorento that was stolen. Her purse, cellphone and computer were inside. She is also going to have to replace a car seat and stroller for her son.

“They saw the car seat, the stroller. I worked hard for those things to provide for my son. They had no right taking that from me,” she said.

Bell figures she lost nearly $15,000 of property.

Denver police say car thieves often use the cars they steal to commit other crimes. In Bell’s case, her debit card from her purse was used to fill up two different cars with gas shortly afterwards.

“People are out there willing to prey on you waiting for you to make that move so that they can,” Bell told CBS4. “You always think it won’t happen to you and then it does.”

The criminals responsible so far haven’t been found.


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