As war continues to rage in Ukraine, criminals in Aberdeenshire are cashing in on high oil prices by targeting rural properties and siphoning domestic heating oil tanks.
Police officers in Aberdeenshire South have recorded eight thefts in the last six weeks – a “considerable increase” on the norm of less than one a month.
Constable Mike Urquhart said around 3,000 litres has been stolen from Banff, Buckie, Fintray, Johnshaven, Laurencekirk, Turriff and St Cyrus in recent weeks.
The crime reduction officer said: “With fuel prices going through the roof, we’ve seen quite a considerable increase in thefts from domestic properties.
Filling more than just jerry cans
“Criminals are just taking advantage of demand and huge prices”.
The spike, said to be “directly related to the fuel price increases“, has left rural residents with empty tanks and re-filling charges costing at least hundreds of pounds.
PC Urquhart added: “At Laurencekirk, a farmer’s got two domestic oil tanks in his garden.
“It was 1,000 litres that were taken the weekend before last. That’s more than just filling jerry cans. That must be a bowser that’s involved. It’s 100 kilograms of fuel.”
In another incident between the weekend and yesterday, thieves struck a home between Ellon and Hatton – leaving a “devastated” mum facing an £802 bill to top up her tank.
Lauren Elrick posted on Facebook: “The price of oil has rocketed and there will be lots of scumbags going about looking to steal oil and fuel.
“The cost to fill the tank with 500 litres again is going to cost me £802 – money I don’t have, especially since we’ve just had it filled a few weeks ago.”
“Absolutely devastated. We rely on our oil to keep the house warm which we need for our three-year-old daughter.”
Officers believe the spate of heating oil thefts are not necessarily linked to the same thieves.
“It’s organised crime. There’s no doubt about that,” PC Urquhart commented.
“I think there’s more than one culprit. I don’t think it’s one particular group that’s responsible,” he added.
Police Scotland’s north-east division has released crime prevention advice for top tips on how to avoid falling victim to heating oil thefts.
The force recommends:
- Positioning tanks as close to the house as possible, in view of a window and as far away from the road as possible
- Planting spikey bushes/plants and using a wooden or metal fence, trellis or wall and a metal or grill cage with a lockable access point across the top
- Spending money on a decent close shackle padlock which offers the most resistance against criminals’ bolt croppers
- Installing motion-sensor security lighting, CCTV cameras and audible and monitored intruder alarm systems.
More theft on the way
Crime fighters are also braced for even more thefts as legislation on who can use industrial or so-called red diesel changes next month.
The rebated fuel is taxed at a lower rate than the standard diesel available at filling stations and used in off-road vehicles and machinery by approved businesses.
But many sectors and industries will lose their red diesel eligibility from next month as the UK Government tries to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
PC Urquhart said: “It’s a double whammy of high prices and a reduction in the number of people within industry that will be able to use red diesel.
“There’s a huge drop in who’s eligible. So you combine that with the increased prices and we are expecting to see diesel theft increase.”