Help protect your heating oil from thieves this winter
Being in the industry we’re in, if there’s one thing that blights this time of year for us it’s fuel theft. Admittedly not as much as it does for the victims of the crime but there’s nothing that gets us tut-tutting and shaking our heads in sympathy more than hearing one of our customers has had hundreds of pounds of fuel nicked.
But one story in the press that caught our eye recently represented a new low in the battle against the criminals. It was the plight of St Mary’s Church in Alveley, near Bridgnorth – on our Market Drayton patch – which has been targeted by fuel thieves twice in a fortnight.
The rogues got away with a few hundred litres of heating oil that the church can ill afford to lose. But it is the fact that the crime was perpetrated against a tiny, rural church, relied upon by the most needy in the community that makes it even more shocking.
Sadly it’s not just St Mary’s that’s been affected. A quick internet search reveals that thieves are operating across all parts of rural Britain, targeting both residential and commercial premises, as well as community facilities such as churches and village halls.
Police forces to issue warnings over heating oil thefts this year alone include Norfolk, Suffolk, Shropshire, Cornwell, Cambridgeshire, Cheshire, Sussex, Essex, Pembrokeshire and Wiltshire. Others are bound to follow suit as activity picks up across other rural areas of the country as happened last year, with almost all forces that preside over rural areas reporting fuel thefts from a variety of property types.
We’ve been advising our customers for years on the action they can take to reduce their chances of becoming a victim of this crime but it doesn’t hurt to go over some of these again. So here are our top tips for keeping your heating oil safe this winter. We might not be able to guarantee it won’t happen to you, but by employing these tips you will make it much harder for the thieves.
If you place your tank in a remote location some distance from your property, then a would-be thief may feel it is easier to strike where prying eyes can’t see. Try placing it close to your property and within full view of one or more of your windows so this may act as a deterrent.
Locks are one of the key ways we secure our homes and this can also be extended to heating oil tanks. A good quality shackle padlock will make life difficult for would-be thieves because the metal hoop (shackle) is hardly exposed, making it very difficult to use bolt cutters.
Installing security lighting in the area around your heating oil tank is also another great way of making thieves think twice before tapping into your heating oil supplies. An illuminated area means homeowners are more likely to be alerted to any suspicious activity.
Another way to disguise your heating oil tank from plain view, especially if it is sited in a remote location, is to put some tall planting around it. A prickly hedge or two could act as a simple and effective deterrent. However, as your heating oil delivery driver will need to have access to the tank you may want to opt for putting a trellis or fence around your heating oil tank.
Remote oil level gauges
Remote oil level gauges can be located in the kitchen or utility area of your home and will set off an alarm when the oil level falls below a quarter full or if there is a sudden drop in your heating oil level. As a result this can be used for the general monitoring of your heating oil levels as well as the detecting thieves.
Disguise your tank from above
Career criminals are turning to increasingly sophisticated means to target their victims and in the case of heating oil that means using software like Google Earth to locate heating oil tanks. By making your tank look less like a tank means there is a less chance of them being able to identify it and target your property. This can be done by growing bushy plants around it that disguise its shape.