WITH the theft of heating oil from domestic tanks on the increase this winter oil, delivery drivers in Kerry have been warned to be vigilant and keep and eye out for any suspicious vehicles that might be following their trucks as they make deliveries to isolated homes.
Recent weeks have seen a number of incidents where gangs of thieves have stolen oil, often a complete tank-full worth several hundred euros, from homes.
The thefts have led to concerns that criminal gangs may have been following oil delivery trucks or staking out isolated houses in a bid to find out when and where large oil deliveries have been made.
Drivers working for oil delivery companies have been advised to keep an eye out for any suspicious vehicles that may be following them or which are in the area while a delivery has been made. They've also been told to be alert and warm homeowners if they notice that a tank may have been interfered with.
Homeowners who have had oil stolen from their tanks in recent week, including one Tralee man who had €1,000 worth of oil taken from a tank located just eight feet from his house, have given gardaí details of a number of suspicious vans that were spotted in their locality and which it is thought the oil thieves are using to transport the stolen oil in a portable tanks.
These vehicles include one red van that was spotted in several areas where oil thefts later occurred.
In one home which suffered an oil theft before Christmas, a hose with simple fishing weights attached to one end to help drop it to the bottom of an oil tank, was also recovered.
There have also been reports that the thieves have stolen oil from domestic tanks in broad daylight while wearing high visibility jackets and workwear to disguise themselves and avoid arousing suspicion.
Oil companies in Kerry say they are aware of the problem and have advised all their delivery drivers and staff to be vigilant.
A spokesman for Sutton's Oil said all the company's drivers were advised to be on the look out for anyone suspicious, especially in rural areas where suspicious vehicles may be more obvious, and also to check the areas around domestic tanks for footprints, tracks or any other indication the tank may have been interfered with or have been targeted by thieves.
Tony Clifford of Kerry Petroleum said that while the problem of oil theft may not be quite as prevalent as many believe, all the company's drivers are encouraged to look out for any thing out of the ordinary at to immediately report any suspicious behaviour.