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Push to stop ticketing drivers who leave cars unattended in winter

Why You Shouldn’t Heat Up Your Car In Cold Winter Weather
Posted at 4:32 PM, Jan 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-21 16:33:02-05

There is a new push to get rid of a fine dozens of Buffalo drivers face each week — it’s for getting their car stolen.

You read that right.

Data from December show about 40 cars are stolen each week, and 60-80% of those thefts happen because of negligence on the part of the driver.

Some keys are left in the car and other times the car is running and it becomes a crime of opportunity or an “attractive nuisance” according to Buffalo Police.

Buffalo common council President Pro Temp and South District Councilman Chris Scanlon is proposing a discussion with BPD about using more discretion when it comes to ticketing these drivers.

“What was the genesis of the fine? Why are we doing this? How often does it happen? Do you have discretion?”

Drivers face fines up to $238 dollars if they’re found guilty, and Buffalo Police say continuing to ticket drivers helps to deter others from leaving cars unattended.

Scanlon’s resolution excludes ticketing in instances where children are left in vehicles.

But, he said he thinks these fines unfairly target poor drivers.

“We’re here in Buffalo we have some cold winters. A lot of the time people need to run their cars to warm them up before they can drive them,” he said. “Who have the cars that have the car starters? And who’s manually starting their cars? You have thousands of people living in poverty in the City of Buffalo manually starting their cars — it stands to reason that’s the segment of population who’s cars are being stolen. Just because they can’t afford the luxury of a car started.

It seems like they’re being punished, simply because of their economic situation.”

The law that makes leaving a car unattended is a state law, not a local one. Scanlon wants to ask Buffalo police to use more discretion in ticketing for the crime. The resolution is set to be discussed with a BPD representative next week.