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10 April 2011 Last updated at 13:26

Pollution risk from heating oil thefts

Rising fuel prices are thought to have partly caused the increase in the number of oil thefts

Victims of heating oil theft in Leicestershire and Lincolnshire are being urged to report the crime to the Environment Agency as well as police.

The agency said storage tanks were often damaged by thieves and could leak oil into any nearby water.

Cleaning up after a contamination of surface water or groundwater can cost thousands of pounds.

Heating oil thefts from rural areas across the UK have have risen by about 70% in recent months, police said.

Increasing fuel prices and the isolated positions of many properties are thought to be factors.

Police have advised residents to install tank locks and alarms, but the Environment Agency said the possible impact on water sources is often overlooked.

Agency spokesman Shaun Rowson said: "Being able to act quickly is vital to stop oil pollution spreading and, potentially, reaching important underground water supplies.

"We would therefore urge people to contact us as quickly as possible if they think there is any risk of pollution as a result of oil theft. This will help to minimise the potential impact on the environment, the public and the homeowner."

9 February 2011 Last updated at 11:05

Warning over rise in Lincolnshire heating oil thefts

Police are recommending tank locks and alarms are used to protect oil supplies

Warnings have been issued to rural homeowners after an increase in heating oil thefts in Lincolnshire.

Rising fuel prices are partly responsible for a jump in the number of cases in recent weeks, police said.

There were more than three times as many heating oil thefts in January with 35 across the county compared to 11 in January 2010.

Sue Daniels, a Methodist Church steward in Wainfleet, said the church had spent thousands of pounds on security.

A Lincolnshire police spokesman said: "We do find that as the cost of fuel goes up - it does have an impact on the level of crime."

The thefts usually involve hundreds of litres of oil from each tank and would amount to thousands of pounds of stolen fuel, she added.

The police recommend locating the storage tank close to another building or house where it can be clearly seen to deter thieves.

A proper lock, security lights and an alarm system are also effective methods of preventing theft, a police spokeswoman added.

Earlier this week the Office of Fair Trading said it would investigate the market for heating oil and other "off-grid" energy following public concern about high costs, particularly over the cold winter weather.

According to figures from the Office for National Statistics, the price of liquid fuel has increased by nearly 50% in the past year.

 

28 January 2011 Last updated at 08:27

Police warn on heating oil thefts

The isolated nature of some rural homes makes them an easy target for thieves

Rural householders have been warned by police to be vigilant after a rise of heating oil thefts from gardens.

The price of the fuel has risen by 70% in recent months and criminals are said to be using increasingly sophisticated tactics to target isolated homes.

Police have advised homeowners to fit padlocks on their tanks and consider installing alarms.

More than 1.5m homes across the UK, mostly in rural areas, are dependent on heating oil.

The increase in the price of the oil and the isolated nature of many of the homes has made them an easy target for thieves.

David Hamilton, a pensioner who had 500 worth of oil stolen from a tank outside his home, said it "doesn't take much" for an isolated person to get cold without fuel and heating before going "over the edge" towards hypothermia.

Ian Johnson, of the National Farmers' Union (NFU), said thieves "will do anything" to steal fuel.

He said anecdotal evidence suggests they are using increasingly sophisticated tactics, "including watching the depots, following the lorries, seeing where [fuel] is delivered and helping themselves to the contents".

Insurers say the average claim for such a theft is more than 2,000, although Mr Johnson warned that "some insurers don't cover that".

The BBC's Louise Hubbal said: "Police say that the oil is being sold on and can even be used in diesel cars."

 

19 January 2011 Last updated at 12:00

 Oil thieves target business park in Sussex

Sussex Police has urged people to secure their supplies of heating oil

A rise in fuel costs could be behind a spate of oil thefts in rural areas of Sussex, police have said.

About 22 gallons (100 litres) of diesel oil was taken overnight on Sunday from a lorry in Slade Yard, Rye.

The theft comes after about 220 gallons (1,000 litres) of heating oil was taken from a tank outside the Woodland Enterprise Centre in Flimwell.

Insp James Scott said: "Rural crimes like this can be attributed to the recent rise in fuel costs."

People have been urged to secure their oil supplies by using padlocks and installing security lights or CCTV cameras.

 

7 January 2011 Last updated at 14:02

Arrests over heating oil thefts in Kent

Kent Police have urged people to secure their supplies of domestic heating oil

Two people have been arrested on suspicion of stealing domestic heating oil as police deal with a spate of oil thefts at houses in Kent.

Kent Police said there had been six recent reports of oil thefts ranging in value from 250 to 1,000.

In one incident in Stockbury, damage worth 500 was caused to an oil storage tank.

Det Insp Susie Harper said it was thought the rising price of oil was behind the increase in incidents.

The two people arrested on Thursday, a 16-year-old boy and a 20-year-old man from the Maidstone area, have been bailed pending further inquiries.

Det Insp Harper urged people to secure their property.

She said: "Victims of oil theft often wake up to a cold, unheated house, thinking that their boiler has broken down.

"It's only when they investigate further that they realise that the oil has been stolen."

She suggested fitting a gauge to set off an alarm if the oil level suddenly falls, using padlocks, installing security lights and a lockable cage, and planting a thorny hedge to deter thieves.

 

29 August 2010 Last updated at 13:12

Heating oil 'tagged' to tackle rural theft in Hampshire

Police in rural parts of Hampshire have joined forces with farmers and the rural community in an attempt to trace stolen heating fuel by "tagging" it.

They are working with the Farmwatch scheme in the Test Valley to introduce a liquid substance which can be added to fuel to "chemically tag" it.

If it is stolen it can then be traced back to its original owner.

During September, free bottles of the substance will be given out to the rural community.

Colder weather

The initiative comes after fuel thefts quadrupled in western Hampshire last winter, police said.

By adding just 100ml of the liquid to their oil tanks and putting stickers on them, farmers, rural residents and businesses can protect their fuel and deter thieves.

Seven premises in the Test Valley area have been targeted in August and police anticipate there could be an increase in thefts over the coming months as people fill up their heating fuel tanks ready for the colder weather.

Ruth Harper-Adams, from Test Valley Farmwatch, said: "Fuel theft from farmyards not only has a costly impact, it also creates other huge implications, such as delays in farming operations.

"It may also create an environmental problem where tank damage is a consequence."

 

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