Rural areas urged to be vigilant as fuel theft doubles

Average cost of fuel theft from households was over £3,000 in 2022, a rise of more than £1,200 on 2021
Average cost of fuel theft from households was over £3,000 in 2022, a rise of more than £1,200 on 2021

Farmers and rural businesses are being urged to be vigilant as theft of oil, diesel and other fuels from domestic premises doubled in 2022.

With inflation and other factors pushing up the price of fuel throughout last year, the overall cost of fuel theft has also rocketed by 244%.

The average cost of each theft of fuel from domestic premises was over £3,000 in 2022, an increase of more than £1,200 on 2021.

NFU Mutual has seen claims for the theft of heating fuels, which are generally much more commonly used in isolated rural homes, increase in both quantity and cost.

Unfortunately, these fuels need to be stored on site and often in larger quantities, making them a top target for thieves.

As prices remain high, NFU Mutual said it was concerned that the increase in the number of thefts could hold in 2023.

There have been reports of thieves siphoning off domestic heating oil from storage tanks, sometimes targeting the same property more than once.

Andrew Chalk, rural insurance specialist at the insurer, said criminals were ‘opportunistic’.

“Thefts can callously leave homeowners without heating or hot water when temperatures are at their lowest, not to mention damaging the storage tanks and risking pollution.

“And with isolated rural homes more dependent on these fuels to heat their homes, the knowledge that their property could be a target for thieves can make homeowners and their families feel vulnerable.

“Thieves are always looking for opportunities, so it helps to obscure storage tanks from view,” he explained.

“Criminals also don’t like to be seen, heard or held up, so measures like fitting tank alarms, security lighting or CCTV, and making sure the property isn’t easily accessible should help dissuade criminals.”

Farmers and rural businesses should join a local Neighbourhood Watch schemes, he said, and there are also a number of farm watch and rural watch groups on social media.

“We know that thieves will often target several properties within an area, so we're encouraging people to share information about suspicious sightings with their local community and police.”