Oil theft warning to Cumbrian households as winter sets in

Rural homeowners in Cumbria on oil-fired central heating are being reminded about the risk of oil thefts as winter sets in and warned to remain vigilant throughout January and February when the demand for oil may increase.

A National Farmers Union Rural Crime survey 2013 showed that fuel was the third most attractive commodity for thieves targeting rural properties.

OFTEC, the Oil Firing Technical Association, says that this, coupled with more severe cold weather and increasing oil prices likely in the coming months, makes heating oil prone to theft.

Malcolm Farrow, from OFTEC, said: “This is an issue that we can’t stress enough at this time of year as no one wants to run out of oil and risk going cold.

"If more people are aware and vigilant of oil thefts in rural communities, hopefully there will be fewer victims of this crime.

“Thefts can take place at any time of year as thieves are extremely opportunistic. However, January and February often brings the harshest weather and this, combined with people feeling the pinch after Christmas, can make the early new year a popular time for thieves to strike.”

Chief Superintendent Steve Johnson, from Cumbria Constabulary, added: “Heating oil theft is a something we take very seriously. We would urge people to take simple precautions to protect your tank, which can significantly reduce the risk of theft.

"Anyone with any concerns or suspicions should call Cumbria Police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”

Homeowners should consider doing the following to ward off thieves:

• Fit a lockable cap or padlock to your tank

• Install a motion detecting security light

• Buy a fuel gauge alarm

• Display a warning message to say that your tank is alarmed

• Install a CCTV camera near your tank

• Look out for suspicious vehicles, especially on the day of your oil delivery

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