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Fuel thefts soaring in county

PUBLISHED: 11:58 19 August 2008 | UPDATED: 11:37 03 July 2010

CRIMINALS are cashing-in on mounting fuel prices with thefts of petrol, heating oil and red diesel soaring across Norfolk.

Figures released yesterday showed more than 760 fuel thefts were recorded by police in the county over the last six months - an increase of 46pc, or 240 crimes, compared to the same period last year.

CRIMINALS are cashing-in on mounting fuel prices with thefts of petrol, heating oil and red diesel soaring across Norfolk.

Figures released yesterday showed more than 760 fuel thefts were recorded by police in the county over the last six months - an increase of 46pc, or 240 crimes, compared to the same period last year.

Most of the offences were motorists making off from petrol stations without paying but the trend of stealing heating oil from unsecured tanks remains a problem.

Thousands of pounds worth of red diesel - the cheaper fuel used by farmers but banned from use on the roads - have been taken and there is a growing problem with thieves siphoning fuel from parked vehicles.

Officers say the increase is due to inflation busting price hikes with unleaded in the county costing about £1.12 and diesel £1.25. Although heating oil has fallen from its 65 pence per litre peak, it still remains significantly higher than the 35 pence mark of last year.

A spokesman for Norfolk police said: “This is an issue we are aware of and officers are proactively dealing with it. Having identified the problem, we are identifying hotspots and trying to find links between the offences to enable us to tackle it.

“It seems likely that offenders are attempting to profit from rising prices at a time when budgets are restricted for us all.”

Between January and June more than 500 people left petrol stations without paying.

Despite security cameras being installed on forecourts, garage owners have reported a number of techniques used by offenders to dodge detections including stealing number plates or partially hiding the registration number.

There have also been hundreds of reports of red diesel being stolen from agricultural premises. In one case thieves stole 4,500 litres of the fuel, which retails at roughly half the cost of conventional diesel. Not only do the thefts deprive farmers of valuable fuel, but there have been several occasions which have resulted in damaged tanks leading to diesel spillages.

Thieves continue to target heating oil tanks at residential premises and residents are advised to restrict access to tanks or install security lights.

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