Neighbourhood Watch: heating oil theft

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Theft of heating and diesel oil has been a problem for many years and the police have always noticed an increase in this type of crime whenever the price of crude oil rises. A rise in the price of fuel at the petrol pump inevitably leads to a rise in the cost of heating oil. This makes oil a more attractive proposition for the thief and they are now actively targeting fuel tanks at farms, transport depots and domestic properties. The thief may be using the oil for their own central heating or selling it on at a handsome profit. These tanks can contain many thousands of pounds worth of oil and it therefore makes good sense to take a few precautions to protect them.

Siting Your Oil Tank
The position of the tank can have a significant effect on how hard a target it is in the eyes of the thief. If the tank is close to the house, with one or more windows capable of giving a view of it, then the thief may consider the chances of being seen too high. If the tank is close to a road, path, drive or alleyway then it will be a far easier target. Hiding the tank behind the garage, shed or some other type of outbuilding is fairly commonplace, but it does give the thief the advantage.

Control Switches
Control switches that control the flow of oil should be turned off and the electricity supply isolated when the tank is not in use.

Padlocks
A thief will usually come equipped with a limited range of tools to attack your tank so it’s worth spending a little more on good quality locks. Close shackle padlocks are the best as they offer most resistance to the most popular of burglar tools; the bolt cropper! Remember that buying a padlock is like buying a car, the more you pay the better the quality and the longer it will last.

Oil Level Gauges
Remote electronic oil level gauges are now available which will set off an audible alarm if the oil level in the tank suddenly drops or falls below a quarter full. These gauges can be located in the kitchen or perhaps a utility room to warn of any potential problem. There are two or three different versions on the market at the moment and cost between £70 and £100. Get into the habit of regularly checking oil levels so that you will know if you have lost any.

Security Lights
Security lights can have a very positive effect and make any property a much harder target for the thief. It’s not always necessary to floodlight the area with high power beams, as a more subtle level of lighting may be all that is needed. Low energy ‘dusk till dawn’ lights positioned close to the tank should, in most cases, provide sufficient light to illuminate any suspicious activity.

Defensive Planting
Defensive planting is nature’s way of helping to reduce crime. Thieves will not wish to force their way through or over a prickly hedge. The smallest trace of blood or shred of ripped clothing could help the police identify the offender. These shrubs can, if planted around your tank, provide an effective and decorative thief proof barrier. If you would like more information about defensive plants to protect your property contact your local community safety team on 101.

Securing Your Oil Tank
Following on from the defensive plant tactic, fences and walls can also make life difficult for the thief. A wooden or metal fence, trellis or wall can give significant protection to the tank, but it must be remembered that the oil tanker driver will need access to fill the tank! A metal or grill cage with a lockable access point across the top of this wall or fence can further improve security. The wall or fence should be as close to the tank and as high as possible. Of course a trellis could also be decorated with defensive planting. A product called ‘Tank Guard’ surrounds the existing storage tank with a metal enclosure. This sheet metal enclosure has lockable access doors to allow filling and maintenance and has internal anchorage points to fix it to the concrete base. A tank guard costs less than one tank full of oil and will last many years.

CCTV
The use of CCTV as crime prevention and a crime detection tool has grown massively in recent years. It could play a part in the protection of oil tanks, but before you spend lots of money on equipment make an assessment of your needs.

 Some Basic Security Tips
These thefts are known to occur both during the day and night. You can assist in preventing these thefts by considering the following precautions:

  • Ensure that your diesel tank/pump has some form of substantial locking device on it
  • Check the level of fuel in your tank regularly so you are sure none has gone missing and you always know how much fuel you have
  • Install security lights that come on when there is movement in the garden. Consider having a simple alarm system fitted.
  • Be vigilant report any suspicious vehicles in the area to the police with details of make, model, registration, colour, any markings/phone numbers displayed, number of occupants and any descriptions

Additional Advice
OFTEC or the ‘Oil Firing Technical Association for the petroleum industry’ offers advice and guidance for those who use and store oil at their premises. There are certain rules and regulations that may apply to you and OFTEC will help clarify these for you.

They can be reached at www.oftec.org or by calling 0845 6585 080. They also produce an ‘easy guide to domestic oil storage’

 

If you see anything suspicious or you have been a victim of crime please report it

Contact Northamptonshire Police by visiting www.northants.police.uk or calling 101, email your local Safer Community Team at SCT-EastNorthantsNorth@northants.police.uk and call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 anonymously with information about crime.

Always dial 999 in an emergency.