Heating oil, thieves will usually pump oil from your tank into other containers. Thieves might use this oil themselves, or sell it on. There have even been reports of criminals selling stolen oil back to the victim.
Data from police forces across England suggests heating oil theft is most prevalent in the first three months of the year when tanks are likely to be full and the days are short. However, thefts occur year-round, so it pays to be vigilant at all times.
Keep your tank out of sight
If installing a new tank, you should consider the placement very carefully. Ideally, your tank should not be visible from the road outside your home and should not be placed near any external gates or doors. If possible, install your tank in an area that can easily be seen from your home, so you can keep an eye on it. You could hide the tank in a number of ways.
Add extra security
Fit a sturdy lock to the fill cap of your tank (and also the vent cap, if possible), and consider installing a security cage or protective casing to your tank and any exposed pipes. Ideally, any casing should be locked with a shackle padlock, which can’t be easily broken with bolt croppers.
Install security lights
Install a movement-sensing security light to alert you to any late-night visitors. A set of strong flood lights would also make a thief think twice about targeting your tank.
The cost of CCTV systems has dropped over the past few years, making basic packages more affordable. If you decide to install a system, you should also place a ‘CCTV’ sign on your gate to let any potential thieves know that you are taking measures to protect your heating oil.
A much cheaper alternative to CCTV is to place a ‘Beware of the Dog’ sign on your garden gate. Thieves tend to avoid houses that have dogs, as they may bark and attract attention during a theft.
Lock it down
Generally, you should always make sure that any access points to your garden (such as gates, doors or garages) are securely locked when not in use.
Fix your fences
If there is a hole in your fence, thieves may be able to gain access through it. Make sure that all of your fences are in good condition and replace any low fences with higher versions, to prevent your tank from being seen by passers-by. You should also avoid placing wheelie bins by your fence, as thieves may use these to climb into your garden.
If you are going on holiday, ask a neighbour to keep an eye on your oil tank and report any suspicious activity.
Turn it off
When your tank is not in use (i.e. during summer or when you are away) turn off your boiler and secure any control switches, as this will make it harder for thieves to get oil out of the tank.
Monitor your tank
If you have a good idea of how much heating oil you have and how much heating oil you tend to use, it will be easier to tell if there is a sudden drop in levels.
Install an alarm
Fit an audible tank alarm which will let you know if your oil levels drop suddenly due to a theft or leak.
As with any valuable item, you should check that your heating oil supply and tank are covered by your home insurance.
Reporting a heating oil theft that has already occurred
If you discover that a heating oil theft has already occurred, you should call the non-emergency 101 police number and report the crime immediately.
Make sure to save any relevant CCTV recordings and pass on any other pertinent information to the police. Once you have a crime number, you should get in touch with your insurance provider.
If a thief successfully steals from your heating oil tank, it’s important that you implement extra security measures to reduce the risk of being re-targeted.
For more information visit https://www.north-wales.police.uk/advice-and-support/safer-homes/oil-theft
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