How to prevent heating oil theft

A domestic oil tank can contain many hundreds of pounds worth of oil and it is therefore it makes good sense to take a few precautions to protect it. 

Location

The position of your 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 for the thief.
  • Hiding the tank behind the garage, shed or some other type of outbuilding is fairly commonplace, but it does give the thief the advantage.

Not many oil tanks are works of art so who wants a tank in full view? 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 need to be within a reasonable distance of the road otherwise the oil supply company may not be able to refill it for you!

OFTEC offers advice and guidance for those who use and store oil at their premises. There are certain rules and regulations that may apply to you and OFTEC will help you clarify these. Visit their website at www.oftec.org.uk for more information or tel.  0845 65 85 080

Locks

A good thief will come equipped with a limited range of tools to attack your tank so its 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 you get and the longer it will last.

Monitors

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 and cost between £70 and £100. West Berkshire Local Police Area has purchased oil level monitor & alarms for victims of oil theft and residents who own an oil tank in a vulnerable location. If you would like more information, please contact the Crime Reduction and Prevention Advisor on 01635 264 624.

Security lighting

Security lights can have a very positive effect and make any property a much harder target for the thief. Its 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 til’ 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.

Defensive planting

This is natures way of helping to reduce crime. Thieves will not wish to force their way through or over a prickly hedge. The smallest trace of blood or shred of ripped clothing could help the police identify the offender. Prickly shrubs and bushes can, if planted around your tank, provide an effective and decorative thief-proof barrier.

Fencing

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 grill or cage with a lockable access point across the top of this wall or fence can further improve security.

CCTV

The use of CCTV as a 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. Ask yourself:

  • What do I hope to achieve by using CCTV?
  • How much am I prepared to spend?
  • Is there a reasonable level of light where the cameras will be operating or do I need to think about using cameras with low light capability? (most thefts take place at night).
  • What am I going to record the captured images on – digital recording is best?
  • How am I going to provide the police with any evidence I may capture?

Be vigilant

If you notice tankers or large vehicles close to your property – take down any details if you think they may be suspicious and report to the police either call 101(non –emergency no.) or 999 if you witness a crime occurring.

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