Rise in Fuel Thefts

Friday, 2 December 2011

THIEVES have been targeting remote business parks, vehicle depots and industrial sites in Northumberland to steal fuel worth thousands of pounds at a time, police said yesterday.

Officers said yesterday they would be putting on night-time patrols aimed at stopping travelling criminals raiding countryside communities. Insurance company NFU Mutual says there has been a "significant” rise in claims and payouts, with the North East now one of the worst areas of the country for fuel theft.

Rural affairs specialist Nicki Whittaker revealed: "There was a significant rise in both the cost and number of claims in the first half of 2011 compared to the first half of 2010.

"Commodity prices are going up all the time and the thieves are tracking them closely.

"And with winter coming, it could get worse. It has been quite warm, but we anticipate that once people start filling their tanks we will see another rise in theft of heating oil.”

Stoker Frater, National Farmers’ Union Council member for Northumberland, who farms at Abberwick near Alnwick, says: "There’s no doubt about it – it’s becoming more and more of a problem.

"People are taking extra security measures on their fuel tanks all the time, but if anyone really wants in, then they can get in.

"And there’s always going to be a rise in crime as long as there’s a rise in world commodity prices.”

Police are intercepting late-night vehicles in the Northumbria force area for spot-checks on cargoes. Siphoning tubes and drums are among equipment found in recent checks and the value of stolen hauls can run into thousands of pounds.

Chief Supt Mark Dennett said: "This action has seen a number of arrests made in connection with fuel thefts and officers have found criminals in possession of siphoning tubes, drums and other such equipment on many occasions.

"We will continue to stop those who we think are using the county’s roads to commit crimes and will continue to take action against what is becoming an increasing concern within the county.”

Mr Frater added: "I’ve been delighted with what the police are doing because in a time of recession and cutbacks, we are seeing more police out in the sticks.

"I was stopped in my own pick-up the other night, but I was pleased about it. It shows they’re doing their job.”

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