Police in Larne are urging householders and businesses to take seriously the threat of oil thefts from tanks.
They are advising everyone to protect themselves against thieves, for whom heating oil at autumn and winter prices represents rich pickings. Farms, transport depots and domestic properties can all be targets, but by taking a few simple precautions, it is possible to protect oil tanks, said the PSNI, who have issued their Top 10 tips.
1. Lock gates: The simple act of keeping garden or drive gates closed and securely locked can prevent a theft. Ensure that all gates and fences are in good repair.
2. Disguise your tank: Consider fencing, trellis or defensive planting. The planting of hostile, thorny shrubs around your tank and boundaries can provide extra protection.
Good examples of defensive plants are pyracantha, berberis, climbing rose, hawthorn and even gooseberry.
3. Create obstacles: Plant pots and general garden paraphernalia can be placed in the path of any potential intruders who will make noise and waste time moving the items or navigating around them. Remove and secure any tools or ladders which could be used as an aide to commit crime.
4. Limit the quantity of oil in your tank: Full tanks are a more popular target, so consider limiting the amount of oil that you have in your tank at any one time.
5. Lock your tank: Use a good-quality, alarmed padlock or install lockable caps with crop-proof fittings. Where possible, fit hardened flexible casings to any vulnerable fuel hoses so that they are harder to cut.
6. Fit a level-guage with an audible alarm: The alarm should sound if the oil level in the tank suddenly drops, or falls below a certain point.
7. Consider installing security lighting and CCTV: Lights can warn you of an intruder and also alert neighbours and passing police patrols.
8. Install a tank cage, or guard: This is particularly important if you have already suffered a fuel theft. These welded cages offer the best protection while still allowing tanker access. Although this solution may seem expensive, when weighed up against the lost of lost fuel and/or a new tank that may be damaged during fuel theft, it can prove more cost-effective in the long term. Such cages can also be alarmed for additional security.
9. Site your tank cleverly: If you have cause to re-site your tank or are installing a fuel tank for the first time, ensure that it is placed in a secure location - visible from your home and surrounding properties, but not from the road.
10. Do not leave scrap metal in view: By removing any scrap from the view of potential offenders, you can avoid drawing attention to your property or your fuel tank.
Further crime prevention advice is available from local neighbourhood policing teams or from the crime prevention officer by calling 0845 600 8000.