Heating oil theft is on the rise – having increased by 51%(i) in just six years according to new research.
We commissioned independent research into reported thefts of heating oil in the UK between 2011 and 2016, and found that the data showed that more than £4 million(ii) of oil was stolen in 2016 alone.
On average, an oil theft victim will lose £280’s worth of heating oil, potentially pushing householders towards fuel poverty.
It is believed that the increase in the price of oil from 25p per litre (in January 2016) to 42p per litre (in November 2017), plus the isolated nature of many of the homes, has made heating oil an easy target for thieves.
Top 10 UK postcode areas with the most reported oil thefts
The research asked 45 police forces for heating oil theft data – split by month, year and postcode. 38 of the police forces were able to provide usable data, allowing us to discover which UK postcode areas have higher rates of reported oil thefts.
There are around 1.6 million UK households who are not connected to mains gas, and therefore rely on heating oil such as Kerosene28 to heat their homes. Domestic oil tanks, which typically cost up to £1000 to fill up, are based outside the home, making it an easy target for thieves, who will often sell it on, and use it for diesel cars.
The highest frequency of heating oil thefts between 2014 and 2017 took place in the Hereford, Cardiff and Swansea areas.
- HR9 – Hereford
- CF3 – Cardiff
- SA62 – Swansea
- PL30 – Cornwall
- NR17 – Norfolk
- IP28 – Suffolk
- SA62 – Pembrokeshire
- TN23 – Kent.
- ME14 – Kent
- YO42 – East Yorkshire
The map below highlights the top 20 locations for oil thefts in the UK during this same period.
The analysis also found that 1 in every 3 thefts took place in the winter months, meaning that we’re now entering the most riskiest months, where oil householders will need to remain vigilant.
How to protect your heating oil from theft
Heating oil tanks can contain hundreds of pounds worth of oil, and when the cost of oil spikes, it’s common for an increase of thefts to follow it. Fortunately, there are a number of methods you can use to help prevent criminals from stealing the oil from your tank. These include:
1. Ensure you have a tank lock – A sturdy shackle padlock will be harder for criminals to break. Ideally, using a lock to fill the cap of your tank, including the vent cap, will reduce the opportunities for theft.
2. Keep your tank well hidden – In most cases, theft is opportunistic, so finding ways to screen-off your oil tank, will help to exclude your tank from the thief’s consideration. Many of our customers use strategic planting to hide their tanks from view behind hedges (e.g. the fast growing Privet, or the thorny native Hawthorn), climbers (like Honeysuckle and Ivies), and fences.
Many garden and DIY stores also sell screens for bins and tanks. It’s worth remembering though, that your tank will still need to be accessible enough for you to receive your oil deliveries.
3. Install Sensor Lights – Most oil thefts happen at night time, and therefore a security or sensor light in your garden can help to discourage thieves from entering your garden, and in some cases they can alert you to their presence.
4. Use a Fuel Alarm – Most fuel tanks are equipped with some kind of standard alarm system. These are usually customisable, and often enable you to set an alert when you reach below a certain level. This will help you spot any sudden changes in your oil tank level.
5. Sign up to Oil Theft Alerts – Many heating oil providers, offer free alerts on heating oil thefts in your area. BoilerJuice account holders receive these by default, to help protect their oil. These can be edited in the My Account area of our website.
If you believe that you have been a victim of oil theft, then you should always report it to the police as soon as possible.
[i] Among all heating oil households (1.6 million), 96,000 (6%) have had heating oil stolen. In 2011 this figure was just 9,600 households and by the end of 2016 this had increased by 51% to 14,400 households.
[ii]11,520 rural households had heating oil stolen at an average cost of £281 between the months of January to July = £3,237,120. This figure for 2016 was £4,046,400 (14,400 x £281).