Truck stolen from Wildernest winds up on Baldy Road in Breckenridge | SummitDaily.com

Truck stolen from Wildernest winds up on Baldy Road in Breckenridge

One of a local company's chipper trucks was stolen late Friday night only to turn up on a remote stretch of road 15 miles away.

Alpine Tree Services, a business owned by two long-time locals, got a call from a woman Tuesday who wanted the company to move one if its large chipper trucks off her property on Baldy Road.

The owners, however, were relieved: it was a truck that had been stolen from their shop in Wildernest late at night on Friday. How it ended up at the very top of Baldy Road in Breckenridge right below to two unoccupied vacation homes is anyone's guess.

"It could have been someone who doesn't like our company very much," said one of Alpine Tree's owners, Jake Fiala. "There wasn't any damage, though, so maybe someone just needed a ride home. But I wouldn't have drive(n) that thing late on a Friday night — it had a headlight out."

Whatever the reason, the owners are just glad to have the truck back, which Fiala estimated is worth around $45,000.

There are car thefts in Summit County, but they're usually resolved this way, said Breckenridge police chief Dennis McLaughlin.

"Sometimes people are intoxicated and they just don't want to walk home, so the cars they steal usually turn up somewhere around town," he said.

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That might explain why there tend to be more car thefts in the winter, when Breckenridge's barflies are less inclined to brave the cold. So far this year, the town has had five vehicle thefts. Last year's total was 19.

But while Breckenridge isn't facing a rash of car thefts, Colorado certainly is. According to the Auto Theft Intelligence Coordination Center (ATICC), 14,859 vehicles were stolen in 2015 compared to 11,459 the previous year, a nearly 30 percent increase.

About 82 percent of the vehicles were eventually recovered, according to the report. Experts say that cars are often stolen for use in committing another crime — in that sense, they can be like single-use shuttles for criminals.

In Summit County, the ATICC reported 37 stolen vehicles in 2015, up from 23 the year before. There was also a snowmobile stolen in Summit last year, one of three reported in the state.

Several weeks ago, a man from California was apprehended near the Eisenhower Tunnel on I-70 after he had stolen a car that was idling outside a convenience store in Silverthorne.

That type of car theft — when the vehicle's engine is left running and an opportunist thief hops in — is called a "puffer," a reference to exhaust vapors visible during cold weather that advertise a car is unlocked and the keys are in the ignition. Last year, puffers accounted for at least 158 of car thefts in Colorado, while another 756 thefts were reported where the keys were in the vehicle.

Leaving your car "puffing" is a class 2 misdemeanor in Colorado, carrying a fine of $150 to $200, although the legislature recently added an exception for cars with remote starters that keep the doors locked.

According to Coloradans Against Auto Theft, 35 percent of Coloradans aren't aware of the prohibition on "puffing," and 40 percent have left their car running unattended at some point.

The group also says the best way to prevent car theft is lock your car, park in well-lit areas and don't keep a spare set of keys in the car. If your car is stolen, you should immediately alert law enforcement, your insurance company, and make a list of valuables. If you keep a key to your home or a garage door opener in your car, be aware that carjackers can check the address listed on your registration and burglarize your home.

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