Police crack down on oil and fuel thefts as crime spikes in North Yorkshire

·2-min read
North Yorkshire fuel thefts are on the rise, say police Picture: NQ staff
North Yorkshire fuel thefts are on the rise, say police Picture: NQ staff

POLICE have launched an operation to crack down on oil thefts as the crime spikes in North Yorkshire.

North Yorkshire Police says it is targetting criminal gangs involved in selling stolen heating oil, vehicle fuel and cooking oil on the black market, which was launched yesterday (August 16).

Officers have already arrested sixteen people.

In the first half of 2022, police received 71 reports of oil thefts across the region, an average of one theft every two to three days, with March alone seeing 20.

The rural areas of North Yorkshire were the hardest hit, with Hambleton and Richmondshire having the most reported thefts of 16, followed by 12 in both Craven and the Selby District, while Harrogate had the lowest number.

However officers believe many people don’t realise they’ve fallen victim till weeks later, meaning police believe the true figure will be much higher than the 71 reported.

Inspector Clive Turner, of North Yorkshire Police said: "With many types of fuel doubling in price, including cooking and heating oils, diesel and petrol, officers are determined to suffocate the black market that has emerged for stolen fuel.

"We’re not talking about a couple of litres here and there – these are often very significant quantities costing thousands and thousands of pounds.

"Experienced criminals specialise in this type of theft and travel great distances to avoid detection.

"And some supply an oil black market, which funds organised crime groups and other criminal activities.”

Police say heating oil was the biggest value theft, and one victim, a woman in her 90s, was left without fuel to heat her rural home after thieves drained her heating tank.

Cooking oil, which is stolen to be converted into unregulated biodiesel and sold on the black market, made up 65 per cent of all thefts, mainly stolen from pubs and restaurants.

Officers say the thieves tend to wear high-visibility clothing, drive commercial vehicles and use industrial equipment as disguises to appear legitimate.

Inspector Turner added: "This type of crime hasn’t been talked about much in the past. So the public probably aren’t fully aware of why it’s a problem or the signs to look out for.

"We’ll be doing more in the coming weeks to help people recognise the signs, stay safe and encourage people to report thefts.

"In the meantime, if you are targeted by fuel thieves, see anything suspicious such as van drivers in pub car parks at unusual times, or have any information about those responsible, please call us on 101, select option 1 and speak to our Force Control Room.

"If you believe a crime’s in progress, always dial 999.”