Residents told: go for concealment as fuel oil thefts rise

An artist's impression of a camouflaged oil tank
An artist's impression of a camouflaged oil tank
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CAMOUFLAGING tanks to avoid being spotted by satellite technology is normally only a feature of modern battlefields.

However, Lothian and Borders Police are urging residents to take unusual steps to avoid falling victim to computer- savvy thieves on the look-out for oil and diesel.

Thefts from tanks located at farms and rural homes across the UK have soared in recent years, and the culprits are said to have started using online services such as Google Maps to identify targets.

Now Pc Mark Singleton has issued advice on how to conceal outdoor fuel tanks from crooks spying on them, and he’s using mother nature’s help to do it.

The community officer for the Gorebridge area of Midlothian has taken his own advice to heart, camouflaging his fuel tank with trellising covered with a prickly shrub called firethorn.

The force’s advice follows the theft of 2000 litres of gas from an external tank at Newlandrig, near Vogrie Country Park, in December. The fuel was valued at £1700.

Pc Singleton said: “What thieves are taking to is using things like Google Maps and aerial reconnaissance. That’s why, during crime prevention surveys, I encourage people, if they can, to camouflage their tank from the air.”

Police have encouraged residents worried about being targeted by burglars to plant “jaggy bushes” around their property to deter thieves.

Prickly plants can also help to track down the culprit if they leave DNA evidence such as a blood sample or scrap of clothing behind, after being cut by a spiky hedge or razor-sharp leaf.

Pc Singleton said that he was not aware of any fuel thefts involving online satellite services so far in the Lothians, but urged residents to be prepared.

He said: “There have been cases south of the Border where satellite imagery was used by thieves to find tanks. Owners should look to keep them locked in a shed, or they can camouflage the tanks if possible.

“Camouflaging a tank depends on the size of it. A domestic 1000 litre tank would be easier to conceal in a shed which can be locked.

“Otherwise, residents just need to be vigilant. They should look out for flat-bed trucks carrying external tanks or other vehicles being driven suspiciously, and contact police if they are concerned.”

Pc Singleton added that a tank with a padlocked connection point was another method of deterring fuel thieves. But he said determined thieves often sawed through padlocks, causing additional damage to tanks.

In November, James Boyle, 42, needed 12 stitches in his cheek after he was attacked at his workplace by two men with a craft knife who broke into Seafield Sewage Works to steal diesel.