By Makenzie O'Keefe

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4)– Aurora police say auto theft continues to climb. It’s up eight percent from 2016 to 2017, and now they’re working to combat the issue.

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This week is “Puffer Week” in Colorado, which focuses on the dangers of leaving cars unattended while running on cold days.

“We’re having cars that are being stolen and then they use them to do burglaries and other larger crimes,” explained Aurora Police Officer Darren Lantz.

(credit: CBS)

CBS4’s Makenzie O’Keefe rode along with officers as they patrolled neighborhoods looking for “puffers.” In one hour, several cars were found running with the doors unlocked, while people were inside their home or the gas station.

Officer Lantz and Officer Moody contacted drivers to warn them of the risks associated with puffing.

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“I could have stolen both of your cars today,” Lantz told one driver. “Both were unlocked with the keys in the ignition, so were just out educating everybody.”

One man left his van running while he ran into a gas station to grab coffee.

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“I said, ‘The police are out here, ain’t nobody going to steal the car,’” Julian Woods laughed after officers contacted him. “Somebody actually has stolen the van before at 9 Mile so I don’t know what I was thinking.”

Aurora police said last year they had reports of 217 cars that were stolen.

(credit: CBS)

They suggest drivers purchase a remote start for the vehicle. Those are legal because the car can warm up without keys being in the ignition. If the car is stolen, the system shuts down once it is out of range of the keys.

“We know it’s inconvenient for drivers, but it’s simple,” Lantz said. “You can just grab a hot beverage like coffee and warm up with your car, it will take five minutes.”

Makenzie O'Keefe

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