Garda warning as fuel thieves target households’ recently filled oil tanks
Fears of spate of illegal siphoning as peak season approaches and home-heating fuel prices remain high
August 24 2022 02:30 AM
Fuel thieves are now using “spotters” to follow delivery trucks to determine which homes have just had their storage tanks filled .
Gardaí are urging householders to take security precautions over their home-heating oil tanks amid a surge in the value of oil thefts.
The warning came as gardaí fear sophisticated gangs are now using specially adapted trucks and vans, probably disguised as delivery vehicles, to remove the stolen fuel.
The thieves follow oil delivery lorries to identify target homes with full storage tanks and use silent electric motors to siphon fuel from tanks within minutes.
There has been a 20pc increase in the value of stolen home-heating oil over the first seven months of 2022 compared to the same period in 2019. Indeed, €76,663 worth of home fuel has been stolen so far this year compared to €106,208 for the entire year of 2019.
On a monthly average, that reveals a near 25pc increase of €10,951 this year compared to €8,850 three years ago.
While the number of thefts has slightly declined over the same period, gardaí are worried the high price of oil will spark a surge in thefts during the peak delivery season. This occurs between September and January as the weather turns colder and households place orders to top up their oil and kerosene supplies.
Despite recent price declines, home-heating oil is still almost 250pc more expensive than two years ago.
And price falls over the past three weeks have led to an almost 20pc increase in household delivery orders as families prepare for the winter.
Such is the soaring value of home-heating oil, diesel and petrol that the total value of fuel thefts from vehicles this year is €32,156 – almost matching the €36,846 taken for the entirety of 2019.
Over the first seven months of this year, there were 195 home-heating fuel thefts. In 2019, there were a total of 348 thefts – most occurring in the September-February period. That is a monthly theft average of 29 (2019) compared to 27.85 (2022) but with the peak theft season yet to set in this year.
Garda crime prevention officers are worried that this autumn and winter there could be a surge in home-heating fuel thefts given the high value of the products involved and booming demand on the black market.
“The high price of oil is definitely an issue. We find there is usually a connection between high prices and a rising number of thefts – thieves have greater margins on the fuel black market at those times,” one garda warned.
Gardaí have now launched a special awareness campaign for householders which is focused on ways of foiling fuel thieves who target both homes and vehicles.
Galway’s crime prevention officer Sergeant Michael Walsh advised that simple precautions by householders could help stop thieves.
These range from secure fencing around oil tanks, alarm systems, CCTV cameras and camouflaging the tank from roadside view using hedges or fencing.
“Fuel tanks that are located away from houses or offices are most at risk and in these situations, robust perimeter fencing, and gates need to be properly secured,” he said.
“We are also recommending people and businesses consider installing alarms, anti-
siphoning devices, security lighting and CCTV cameras.”
The challenge for gardaí is that fuel thieves have evolved highly sophisticated operations for stealing oil products.
They also operate vehicles equipped with special tanks for holding the siphoned fuel – in some cases disguised to look like a different kind of truck or van.
Tanks are accessed via a small drill with a special nozzle and silent siphoning pump.
While home-heating oil tanks are the primary target, such has been the soaring price of petrol and diesel that even parked cars and trucks have been attacked over recent weeks.
Five weeks ago, a number of trucks parked overnight in Limerick were targeted by fuel thieves – with more than €500 in diesel drained from tanks.
Gardaí said the key to protecting the storage tank was a good-quality fence or wall while motion-sensor lights could also deter thieves.
“Remote electronic oil level gauges are available which will set off an audible alarm when the oil level drops dramatically, as would happen if there were a leak or theft, and alerts the receiver unit,” he said.