ATPA Warns Drivers Against Puffing

Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania (January 4, 2017) – The Pennsylvania Auto Theft Prevention Authority (ATPA) and its statewide law enforcement partners are asking drivers to resist puffing and secure their cars during the cold weather months. Leaving your car running, unlocked and unattended (ie. “puffing”) renders it vulnerable to theft and is illegal in some Pennsylvania municipalities. 

“With January’s and February’s typically colder temperatures, we usually see an uptick in puffer thefts,” explained Steven Wheeler, executive director of ATPA. “This is a really easy crime to prevent. We hope drivers will heed the warning. If you think it’s inconvenient to get into a cold car, imagine how inconvenient it is when your car is gone.”

Last year, more than 10,590 cars were stolen in Pennsylvania. Approximately 50% of them were left unlocked, many with the keys or FOB inside.

“Puffer thefts are a basic crime of opportunity,” said Wheeler. “Our partners’ surveillance footage from across the state shows over and over again, people who did not intend to commit a crime but then simply take a car because it’s available. It can be too tempting for someone to pass by a running car at a convenience store, on the street or even in your driveway.”

Auto theft prevention is common sense, but not common practice. Follow these simple tips at home, work or while on vacation to protect your vehicle and 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. Develop good habits — consciously make the decision to double check that you have your keys as you walk away from the vehicle. No place is safe from theft, even your own driveway.
  • No puffing: Do not leave your car unlocked, running and unattended. Whether you’re just running out to grab a cup of coffee or warming the car up before leaving for work, it only takes a thief seconds to steal your car and ruin your week. It is illegal to leave a car running and unattended on a public road in Pennsylvania. Some municipalities also have laws against puffing on private property.
  • Don’t leave valuables in your car. Leaving cell phones, mail, garage door openers, wallets, computers, or other valuables in the car attracts thieves. Leaving mail and sensitive information in your car also leaves you vulnerable to identity theft. Leaving keys and garage door openers can also invite burglary to your home.

In January and February, ATPA is using videos in movie theaters, Facebook and Twitter to spread its prevention message across the state. View the video and surveillance footage of puffer thefts at

Created in 1994 by the state General Assembly, the Pennsylvania Auto Theft Prevention Authority combats auto theft by providing grants to law enforcement agencies, conducting public education initiatives, and providing specialized training. During the past decade, the rate of auto theft in Pennsylvania has declined 52% (and at a faster rate of decline than the national average).

Media Contact: Amanda Owens 717-480-9479

Pennsylvania Auto Theft Prevention Authority

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