Whittlesey and District Neighbourhood Watch

Whittlesey and District Neighbourhood Watch

Creating safer, stronger and active communities

Heating and Diesel Oil Theft

Following the heating oil security advice below, could reduce the chances of you being a victim.

Theft of heating and diesel oil has been a problem for many years and the police have 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 costs of heating oil.  This makes oil a more attractive proposition for thieves who are targeting fuel tanks at farms, transport depots and domestic properties.  The thieves may be using the oil for their own central heating or selling it on at a handsome profit.

Tanks can contain many thousands of pounds worth of oil and it therefore makes good sense to take a few precautions to protect them.  The purpose of this information is to give the reader a few ideas about what can be done to make life more difficult for thieves.



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.
While it may not be desirable, or legal, to have the tank close to the house some sort of compromise location would be sensible.  Of course this will not only be a major consideration when a new tank  is to be installed but may be necessary if the tank has been targeted before.   Tanks do need to be within a reasonable distance of the road otherwise the oil supply company may not be able to refill it for you.
Control switches that control the flow of oil should be turned off and the electricity supply isolated when the tank is not in use.
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!  Due to their design, close shackle padlocks have very little of the metal hoop (shackle) exposed and bolt croppers  cannot get a good grip.  Remember that buying a padlock is like buying a car.  The more you pay the better the quality and the longer it will last.
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. Get into the habit of regularly checking oil levels so that you will know if you have lost any.
Security lights can have a very positive effect and make any property a much harder target to 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.  This type of light can be both effective and inexpensive.  High powered lights can be used but care should be taken not to cause any nuisance to neighbours or road users.

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.  

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.
The object of this information has been to illustrate ways in which we can make it more difficult for a thief to steal heating oil.  Nothing mentioned here will make it impossible for them to achieve their goal, but if some of the suggestions made are followed it just may make a difference.
PCSO Tom Horwood
Wisbech Safer Neighbourhood Policing Team