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What are the heating oil theft hotspots in the county?

Sgt Brian Calver of the Rural and Wildlfe Crime Team  Picture: SARAH CHAMBERS

Sgt Brian Calver of the Rural and Wildlfe Crime Team Picture: SARAH CHAMBERS

Archant

An "awful lot" of heating oil theft in Suffolk goes under-reported, according to a top rural police officer.

Information released under Freedom of Information (FoI) laws revealed there were 83 incidents of heating oil theft in Suffolk in 2018, a slight drop from 88 cases in 2017.

The statistics also revealed that the IP30 postcode, which includes villages such as Elmswell, Woolpit, Cockfield, Hessett, Felsham and Rattlesden, was the area most targeted in 2018, with 10 thefts.

The IP28 postcode - covering Mildenhall, Tuddenham, Red Lodge, Beck Row, and Risby - was targeted nine times in 2018.

Sergeant Brian Calver, of the Rural and Wildlfe Crime Team at Suffolk police, said: "I think an awful lot of it probably goes under-reported because it depends on how much people take.

"If someone empties the whole tank, obviously you know it's gone but if someone doesn't, it's easily missed unless you've got a tank alarm.

"It's one of those things that has been fairly constant for years, I've heard stories of organised crime groups having vehicles following tankers around so they know where they've last filled up so they think 'we'll target you because you've got a nice full tank'."

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Sgt Calver added that there is a financial and social impact on victims.

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"A tank of oil is expensive, and if you haven't got a lot of money, you've got all the hassle of that and also the associated health risks that go with it, especially for elderly residents," he said.

"The lack of hot water, the lack of heating, there is a social impact as well as the financial loss to the victims."

Last year's figures also showed that 67% of all thefts happened in the first four months of the year.

Explaining the seasonal trend, Sgt Calver said: "People use it from October/November time and they're getting low, so that's probably the time they think to top it up to make sure they've got enough before the end of the season."

Sgt Calver said there are ways people can protect themselves against thieves.

"People can get CCTV cameras covering the tank and tank alarms which go off if the tank drops suddenly

"Another good idea is putting gravel round the tank, so people have to make a noise to get to it.

"It's a case of making it as unattractive as possible, security lighting is always a good one because these people don't want to work in light - darkness is their friend."

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