Warning of rural crimewave due to heating oil shortages

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FOLLOWING a 70 per cent rise in the cost of domestic heating oil during the last three months and bleak predictions of ‘fuel rationing’ over the Christmas period, NFU Mutual, the UK’s leading rural insurer, is warning of a rise in fuel thefts and advising home-owners to take steps to protect their supply.

When it conducted its annual Rural Crime Survey earlier this year, domestic fuel was sixth on the list to top ten items most commonly stolen from the countryside and, with thousands of homes predicted to run short of heating oil over the Christmas period, the insurer is concerned the trend will escalate as heating oil becomes a lucrative commodity for thieves.

The NFU Mutual 2010 Rural Crime Survey (RCS) is based on the individual claims experience of its 300 strong network branch offices located in rural towns and villages throughout the UK.

Local offices across the UK reported incidences of heating oil and diesel being stolen shortly after delivery and it would appear that thieves are actually following tankers from the depot and making a note of where fuel is delivered. This enables the thieves to return under cover of darkness and help themselves to the contents of full tanks.

To help customers and prevent them being left out in the cold this winter, NFU Mutual has produced their Oil Tank Security Check-list:

Deter thieves from entering your property by installing and using lockable gates and by maintaining boundaries and perimeter fencing.

Plant shrubs of install fences to hide exposed domestic heating oil tanks from the eyes of opportunist thieves cruising the neighbourhood.

Consider fitting a locking cap to your tank.

Check tank oil levels regularly.

Where possible install automatic movement sensor security lighting to cover your tank and the immediate surrounding area.

Note suspicious vehicles’ registration numbers and report them to the police.

If tanks are located in outbuildings or sheds, ensure these are kept locked.

Be aware that if thieves have already stolen fuel from your tank them may return to steal any replacement oil you order.

Be especially vigilant following a recent delivery of oil.