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Criminals Googling for heating oil

GOOGLE maps can be used by criminals to find out where oil tanks are situated on people’s property, a county councillor has warned.

Councillor Alan O’Callaghan, who is in the fuel business, said there is a perception out there that fuel criminals have local knowledge or are following oil trucks but he feels the internet is also being used as a tool.

“People need to be aware that you can go onto Google maps to see exactly where people’s oil tanks are, so it might not be local knowledge,” Mr O’Callaghan said during a discussion at a meeting of Killaloe councillors, attended by Chief Superintendent John Kerin.

Councillor O’Callaghan said he believed it was true that some people didn’t realise how much fuel they would receive, especially around the time oil prices peaked. He said it was fair to say that some people thought fuel had been stolen because they had run out of fuel quicker than they expected and they, in fact, had more than likely burned through it themselves.

Speaking at two recent meetings, Chief Superintendent John Kerin addressed the issue of home heating oil thefts, which had been prevalent during winter months in the past year.

At a meeting of the Killaloe Municipal District, the Clare Garda chief said there were a total of 52 reports of fuel thefts in 2014 across the county; 28 of these were thefts from trucks, forest and farm machinery, while 23 were from private houses or businesses.

He said these figures would be on par with the previous year. However, he said “whether or not it is down to the decrease in the price of fuel, it has not been as prominent in December or January of this year”.
He did say the gardaí have had some success and had made a number of detections, leading to successful prosecutions for those carrying out this crime.

“In late November/early December we made significant arrests in relation to fuel thefts; that’s not to say that’s the reason for the reduction. Some believe that there have been thefts of fuel but in reality it is that they are not used to the volume of fuel they are getting,” he said.

He said there are only two or three gangs conducting fuel theft operations in the county and he believed once those are caught it would stop. He added that at the time of the meeting last Wednesday, one person was in custody in relation to fuel theft.

By Carol Byrne

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