Garda alert as fuel thieves target recently filled household oil tanks

Fuel Thieves will now use “Spotters” to track delivery trucks to determine which homes just had their tanks filled .

ardaí are urging homeowners to take security precautions for their fuel oil tanks amid a rise in the value of oil theft.

The warning came as Gardaí fear sophisticated gangs are now using specially customized trucks and vans, likely disguised as delivery vehicles, to remove the stolen fuel.

The thieves follow oil delivery trucks to identify target homes with full storage tanks and use silent electric motors to siphon fuel from the tanks in minutes.

The value of stolen heating oil has increased by 20 percent in the first seven months of 2022 compared to the same period in 2019. In fact, €76,663 worth of heating oil has been stolen so far this year, compared to €106,208 for all of 2019.

On a monthly average, that’s a nearly 25 percent increase from €10,951 this year compared to €8,850 three years ago.

While the number of thefts has fallen slightly over the same period, gardaí fear high oil prices will lead to a spike in thefts during the peak delivery season. This occurs between September and January when the weather turns colder and households place orders to replenish their oil and kerosene stocks.

Despite the recent drop in prices, heating oil is still almost 250 percent more expensive than two years ago.

And price declines over the past three weeks have caused household delivery orders to surge nearly 20 percent as families prepare for the winter.

The value of heating oil, diesel and petrol for the home is increasing so much that the total value of fuel theft from vehicles this year is €32,156 – almost as much as the €36,846 taken for all of 2019.

In the first seven months of this year there were 195 thefts of heating oil. In 2019 there were a total of 348 thefts – most of them between September and February. That’s a monthly average of 29 thefts (2019) compared to 27.85 (2022), with peak theft season still to come this year.

Garda crime prevention officials fear there could be a spike in heating oil thefts this fall and winter given the high value of the affected products and booming black market demand.

“The high oil price is definitely a problem. We find that there is usually a correlation between high prices and rising levels of theft – thieves have larger profit margins on the fuel black market at this time,” warned one Garda.

Gardaí have now launched a special household awareness campaign focused on stopping fuel thieves who are targeting homes and vehicles.

Galway Crime Prevention Officer Sergeant Michael Walsh warned that simple precautions by homeowners could help stop thieves.

These range from the secure fencing of oil tanks, alarm systems, surveillance cameras to camouflaging the tank from the roadside with hedges or fences.

“Fuel tanks located away from homes or offices are most at risk and in these situations, robust fencing and gates need to be properly secured,” he said.

“We also recommend people and businesses to install alarms, anti-
Extractors, security lighting and CCTV cameras.”

The challenge for gardaí is that fuel thieves have developed sophisticated oil product stealing operations.

They also operate vehicles equipped with special tanks to hold the siphoned fuel – in some cases camouflaged to look like another type of truck or van.

Access to the tanks is through a small drill with a special nozzle and a silent suction pump.

While fuel oil tanks are the primary target, soaring prices for petrol and diesel have been so severe that even parked cars and trucks have been attacked in recent weeks.

Five weeks ago, several lorries parked overnight in Limerick were targeted by fuel thieves – with more than 500 euros of diesel in their tanks.

Gardaí said the key to protecting the storage tank is a quality fence or wall, while motion detectors could also deter thieves.

“Remote electronic oil level gauges are available that will emit an audible alarm if the oil level drops dramatically, as would occur in the event of a leak or theft, and alert the receiver unit,” he said. Garda alert as fuel thieves target recently filled household oil tanks

Fry Electronics Team

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