There have been 48 car thefts in Harrisburg so far this year and the city’s police force have decided to combat the epidemic by cracking down on what is known as “puffing” ABC 27 reports.
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“Most of these cars are stolen early morning,” police captain Gabe Olivera told the station. “It’s cold, people are getting out of their house, they turn on their car, the run back inside because it’s cold and they leave them running.”
Earlier this week, Harrisburg officers have responded to seven car theft reports that occurred in a 24-hour span, according to police. In all seven cases, the vehicles were left running and unattended with the keys in the ignition. When the owners leave the cars running as they warm up, they are creating a perfect opportunity for thieves who are looking for the chance to steal them.
Police are currently investigating the seven car thefts that took place in 24 hours this week.
Noting it only takes second for thieves to get into a car and drive away, Harrisburg police officers have advised residents not to leave their keys in the vehicle’s ignition whether the car is running or not. Police also encouraged residents not to leave spare keys or garage door openers in the vehicles either. The police also reminded residents that children and pets should never be left in an unattended vehicle.
The term “puffing” refers to when a driver leaves their car running and unattended. According to the Pennsylvania Auto Theft Prevention Authority, about half of the car thefts occur because the keys were left in the car.
“Unfortunately, we literally have people looking for cars warming up. They literally get in the car and drive away. It takes seconds,” said Olivera.
Now, police offer will start to shut off the cars’ ignition and confiscate the key of any vehicle they come across that is running and unattended. Officers are authorized to not only take the keys, but also secure the vehicle, and wait until the owners present themselves, according to police. Officers may also issue a $54 citation for leaving a vehicle unattended, according to Fox 43.
“Making it very inconvenient for whoever owns the car, because now they have to get a ride to the station to get their keys,” Olivera said. “And if it’s after hours, you won’t get those keys back until the next business day.”
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