Police in rural parts of Hampshire have joined forces with farmers and the rural community in an attempt to trace stolen heating oil 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.
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.”