Fuel and oil theft
Theft of fuel is a concern for the police and rural communities. Fuel is stolen from vehicles and storage tanks using siphoning equipment that can vary from basic tubes to more sophisticated arrangements involving pumps and the cutting of fuel lines.
The following advice could help prevent this type of theft:
Siting your oil tank
- The position of the 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. 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. They do need to be within a reasonable distance of the road otherwise the oil supply company may not be able to refill it for you.
- Control switches that control the flow of oil should be turned off and the electricity supply isolated when the tank is not in use.
- A thief will usually come equipped with a limited range of tools to attack your tank so it's 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.
Oil level gauges
- 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.
- Some oil level gauges can now be monitored via smartphone app allowing them to be viewed at anytime, anywhere.
- Security lights can have a very positive effect and make any property a much harder target for the thief. It's 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 is nature's 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. These shrubs can, if planted around your tank, provide an effective and decorative thief proof barrier.
- Plants such as Pyrocantha also known as Firethorn are attractive, evergreen and act as nature's barbed wire.
Securing your oil tank
- Following on from the defensive planting tactic, 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.
- The wall or fence should be as close to the tank and as high as possible.
Closed circuit television
- The use of CCTV as a crime prevention and 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.
- 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?
- Wherever possible, keep vehicles in a secure area, preferably a garage, shed or outbuilding.
- Consider the use of locking fuel caps.
- Refuel vehicles just before the planned journey rather than leaving a vehicle fully fuelled overnight.
- Park vehicles in areas that are well lit so they can be observed easily.
- Use secure parking areas or compounds when vehicles are parked overnight, especially vehicles not parked at their operating base.
- Consider the use of alarms. This could be on the vehicles themselves or for the perimeter of the parking/storage area.
- Improve lighting and focus on vulnerable areas.
- Fit anti-siphoning devices.
- Install or confirm that existing CCTV is fit for purpose, and that it covers tanks and vulnerable vehicles.
- Consider using fuel dyes.
- Install cages and/or improve security that surrounds fuel storage tanks.
- Consider using ‘bunded’ fuel tanks if your existing storage facility is not of that type.
- Use defensive parking techniques, wherever possible. Park vehicles against solid objects on the fuel tank side to prevent access.
- Remove portable storage from the site (barrels and drums etc.) or make them secure.
- Consider installing fuel cap alarms – wireless transmitters can be placed inside the screw cap of the fuel tank. A magnetic switch on the device sets off an alarm if the cap is opened or tampered with. More advanced systems can be linked to security lighting or send a text message to the owners or security provider. An isolation switch allows authorised access to the tank for refuelling.
- Make sure gates and compounds are locked and secure; consider fitting an anti-attack cover for the lock.
- Do not leave keys in or near a vehicle where they can be easily found.
- Arrange to check vehicles and premises outside of normal working hours.
- Agricultural sites should consider portable refuelling systems that can be locked in secure storage areas and not left in fields or stock yards.
- Use appropriate signage at the entrance where security devices are being used. This will act as a deterrent.