Rural homeowners in Bedfordshire on oil-fired central heating are being warned about the risk of oil thefts as winter sets in and warned to remain vigilant throughout January and February when the demand for oil may increase.
A Rural Crimes survey showed that fuel was the third most attractive commodity for thieves targeting rural properties.
This, coupled with more severe cold weather and increasing oil prices likely in the coming months, makes heating oil prone to theft.
Malcolm Farrow, from OFTEC, the Oil Firing Technical Association, said: “This is an issue that we can’t stress enough at this time of year as no one wants to run out of oil and risk going cold.
“If more people are aware and vigilant of oil thefts in rural communities, hopefully there will be fewer victims of this crime.
“Thefts can take place at any time of year as thieves are extremely opportunistic. However, January and February often brings the harshest weather and this, combined with people feeling the pinch after Christmas, can make the early new year a popular time for thieves to strike.”
A spokesperson from Bedfordshire Police added: “Heating oil theft is a reoccurring problem throughout the country.
“By being aware and taking simple precautions to protect your tank you can significantly reduce the risk. No one wants to be a victim of crime, so it really is beneficial to be proactive and take measures to deter thieves from your property.”
Homeowners should consider doing the following to ward off thieves:
> Fit a lockable cap or padlock to your tank
>Install a motion detecting security light
>Buy a fuel gauge alarm
>Display a warning message to say that your tank is alarmed
> Install a CCTV camera near your tank
> Look out for suspicious vehicles, especially on the day of your oil delivery.
If you have any suspicions about fuel theft you can call police on the non-emergency number, 101. Emergency calls can still be made on the 999 number.
>The Rural Crimes survey was carried out on behalf of insurance firm NFU Mutual.