GARDAI have warned the public to keep vigilant this winter as the threat of heating oil theft looms large over Mayo homes.
With kerosene prices gone up to 82 cent a litre, criminals have targeted schools, hospitals, businesses and houses to get their hands on the valuable fuel. One Claremorris priests’ home has even been robbed of its heating oil twice in the last few years, a senior garda has revealed.
“I would suggest that we’ll have the same problem this winter unless people are vigilant,” Sergeant Tony Cosgrove, Crime Prevention Officer at Castlebar Garda Station said at last week’s meeting of the County Joint Policing Committee.
To help prevent the crime, he called on community groups to report anything strange in their area and for anyone who sees unfamiliar-looking large transport vehicles in residential areas to notify gardai of the registration number immediately.
Sergeant Cosgrove described the theft of home heating oil as ‘a big problem nationally’ and one that Mayo hasn’t been immune from. He described a common situation of thieves stealing oil from full tanks at night, just hours after a delivery has been made. Houses that have been left vacant for a few days due to holidays have also been heavily focussed on by these criminals.
“Schools have been targeted, and I would advise all the 183 primary schools in the division of a simple thing – that when they’re going on holidays to not leave a full tank of oil. It’s a basic thing but they maybe might not have thought about it.
“Hospitals have been hit, priests houses – I live in Claremorris myself and the priest’s house has been hit twice in the last couple of years. So nobody is immune from this type of theft.”
The sergeant recommended a number of safety measures to be put on tanks to stop the thefts, including metal cages, sturdy locks, lighting sensors and barriers and even thorny defensive plants around the tank such as barberis and holly.
He also pointed to oil delivery trucks with an unfamiliar brand names and large fuel bowsers, common during the construction boom, as two means by which thieves can attempt to steal fuel.