Fuel Security News

Shocking fuel theft stats from Northamptonshire Police

Mon, October 13, 2014 - 9:25:00

Fuel theft is one of the most exasperating crimes you can experience. Not only will it cost hard-earned pounds to replace, but unexpectedly running out of fuel can be even more inconvenient. Police have warned householders to be on the lookout for fuel thieves operating in their area and to keep a watchful eye over your fuel tanks.

To help you stay vigilant – and to really understand and appreciate how fuel theft affects our customers – we asked the Northamptonshire Police to supply us with all the key stats on fuel theft within the last five years.

We sent out a series of Freedom of Information Requests to police forces across the United Kingdom asking for information on the theft of heating oil from oil tanks, as well as the theft of diesel from storage tanks. We excluded theft from vehicles or garage forecourts.

The force responded to our request with gusto, and with their data we were able to get a snapshot at the state of fuel-related crimes in Northamptonshire.

Heating oil thieves are successfully targeting unattended tanks

The graph shows that Northamptonshire heating oil thefts have risen over the past five years.

The slight drop in 2011- 2012 could be related to an alert that Northamptonshire Police published in early 2012 warning communities of an increasing number of thefts in South Derbyshire. On the whole, however, the number of reported crimes has increased over the last few years.

The report shows that theft from heating oil tanks mainly came from driveways and gardens, detached houses, and business premises. That gives us something interesting to think about.

We can deduce from this insight that the oil was being stolen from places where it was difficult to keep a close eye on the tank, such as premises that were probably unattended. Detached houses may not have thief-deterring neighbours nearby, and business premises are likely to be deserted at night.

The category ‘driveways and gardens’ can cover a lot, so the statistics relating to them require some guesswork, but it’s easy to imagine tanks being hidden away at the back of a garden with the victim completely oblivious to the crime. One confusing aspect of the report is that theft from a driveway seems more daring and easier to detect, but that simply shows the importance of good tank security.

The most notable crimes include the theft of 2,500 litres of heating oil with a value of £1,614.37 which was taken from a detached house, and the theft of over 4,000 litres of heating oil stolen from a community centre, the value of which is estimated to be £2,570.

Diesel fuel is a more profitable target for thieves

The graph shows that diesel fuel thefts could be on the decline, with an increase over the last year which was out of character compared to the previous 2 years. To come up with a more meaningful insight, we would need to look further into the past or see how 2014 shapes up. With the current data it’s difficult to see if the increase in diesel fuel theft will continue or return to a lower level.

One thing we can note is there are far more instances of diesel fuel theft compared to heating oil. This is probably because diesel fuel is more commonly used by people in everyday life, giving it greater resell value and thus more attractive to a thief.

We can also see that thefts are more likely to occur on commercial premises where there will be minimal security at night. The majority of recorded crimes came from farm fields, stables and barns, commercial yards, building sites, and business premises.

The most notable incidents include the theft of 7,000 litres of diesel from a commercial yard, totalling over £3,000 in lost fuel, and a series of thefts from building sites, business premises and commercial yards with between 4,000 and 5,000 litres of red diesel being stolen.


In the days of economic recession, fuel from both commercial and residential premises has become a valuable target for thieves. Often they are hardened professionals able to pilfer thousands of litres in one go, and they are looking for targets which offer the least resistance. Leaving your fuel tank unattended, especially at night, could leave it exposed to criminals.

Don’t make your fuel an easy target for thieves. If you’re concerned about the safety of your tank, please read our Domestic Heating Oil Security and Diesel Fuel Security guides.