The theft of heating oil has risen by just over 50% since 2011, new research has shown. The rise in incidents has been fairly steady over the last six years (to the end of 2017) and in 2016 alone more than £4 million worth of oil was stolen.
A hard blow
The average theft deprived the householder of £280 worth of kerosene, which can mean the difference between getting by over the winter and falling into fuel poverty.
One of the factors leading to the spike in thefts in 2016 is believed to be the sudden rise in price from 25p per litre in January 2016 to 42p per litre in November 2017. The isolated locations of many rural households, which tend to use oil over mains gas, also encouraged thieves.
Many home heating oil suppliers like Emo Oil try to provide cheap oil to their customers, of course, but the average domestic tank costs around £1,000 to fill and if more than a quarter is suddenly taken, it can spell trouble for the household.
Winter is the cruellest time
Around a third of thefts occur during the winter months, so with spring not quite here yet, you’ll still need to stay alert.
How to keep your heating oil safe
One thing to look out for is a sudden rise in the cost of heating oil as there’ll probably be a spate of thefts soon after. As well as keeping watch, there are more practical steps you can take.
Use a tank lock
Using a cap lock will deter a lot of thieves, or at least it’ll make it harder for them to break into your tank, maybe alerting you to their presence. You can also use a padlock if your tank cap won’t accept a lock.
Out of sight, out of mind
Many fuel thefts are opportunistic – someone walks or drives past, sees your tank and fancies a quick top-up… If they can’t see your tank, the thought might not enter their head, so screen it behind a fast-growing privet hedge or something nice and thorny to make them think twice.
Just make sure that your tank is still accessible to you and your delivery driver, though; you don’t want to have to fight through a forest to get topped up.
Light it up
Motion sensor lights are a great deterrent to many thieves and as most oil thefts happen at night, you’ll be doing yourself a big favour if you install some. Not only do they put off thieves, any that are brave enough to have a go will end up illuminated!
Install a tank alarm
A tank alarm will alert you when your oil levels are critical or if there’s a sudden drop. If there’s a big change in levels then chances are someone’s siphoning off your fuel so you can intervene and tell the police.
Let your oil supplier know if you’ve been a victim of theft
Many oil suppliers have an alert system for their customers, so if you’ve had a theft, tell your supplier so they can warn their other customers (and even competitors…) that thieves are around. You should also tell the police, of course.