New rural phenomenon?
Could increased fuel prices be driving a new rural phenomenon? With domestic oil prices at an all-time high many of Britain's rural homes and businesses are at risk from opportunistic oil thieves.
In previous years, oil theft has been considered an unlikely menace to rural properties. The need for a tanker or carrier of some sort, combined with other practical difficulties, meant that it was a high risk crime for minimal gain. However, it appears that more thieves are now prepared to take on the risks, in order to take advantage of the oil's increased value.
Victims of oil theft are often left to wake up to a cold, unheated house – understandably expecting their heating system to have broken down. Only on further investigation do they discover that their heating fuel has been drained away in its entirety.
On other occasions, thieves take only a small amount from tanks in order that the victim may never realise the loss.
Making matters worse
While theft of heating oil is a new phenomenon, farmers have suffered theft from farmyard diesel tanks for a number of years. As these cases have shown, attempts to make tanks secure with simple measures like padlocks do not always suffice – they can even make matters worse. Thieves have been known to smash valves from padlocked tanks, leading to oil spills and serious pollution.
If you have an oil tank, try to protect your heating oil by following these simple tips:
- Plant shrubs or install fences to hide your tank from view. This is especially important if you live close to the road – although heating oil theft has also been known to occur at secluded properties with long drives.
- Remember to check your tank’s oil levels on a regular basis.
- Where possible, install security lighting that covers your tank and the immediate surrounding area.
- If your tank is openly accessible to all, consider re-siting it to an area or building where it is better protected.
- Be extra vigilant of tankers or large vehicles close to your property. Note down any suspicious vehicles’ registration numbers and report them to the police.
- If your tank is located in an outbuilding, ensure it is kept locked and secured at all times.
- Remove any empty containers or drums from the immediate area – they could draw attention to the presence of your oil tank.
- Deter thieves from entering your property by installing and using lockable gates and by maintaining boundaries and perimeter fencing.
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