Police in West Norfolk have today launched Operation Tank which aims to target those who steal heating oil, diesel and scrap metal.

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Over the past year there have been more than 100 heating oil thefts in West Norfolk alone, according to Norfolk Police.

Supt Dave Marshall, head of West Norfolk policing, said the number of heating oil thefts increases over the winter months.

He continued: “The average tank holds around £600-700 of oil and the cost of replacing that can really hurt a family, particularly at this time of year.

“But we understand that it’s not just the cost, it’s the time without heating, the hassle of arranging replacement oil and the obvious concerns around the safety of their property.”

Diesel thefts are also a concern for the borough’s force. In the past fortnight there have been a number of diesel thefts from commercial premises, totalling over 35,000 litres.

Vehicles and farm machinery are also being targeted and the vast majority of victims are commercial properties, but single domestic vehicles are also targeted by thieves.

Scrap metal theft often goes hand in hand with oil and diesel thefts and this operation coincides with the new scrap metal legislation in force today.

Most of these crimes happen in rural areas so officers will be particularly focusing their operation in south west Norfolk, the Wisbech borders and along the A17 corridor.

Op Tank will involve extra resources, including special constables, and extra patrols across the affected areas. PCSOs will be visiting previous victims and offering further home security advice, including specially designed crime prevention packs.

Officers will also be conducting roadside checks and proactive stops of vehicles, working with partner agencies. We will also be working with colleagues elsewhere in Norfolk and across the border in Cambridgeshire and Suffolk where appropriate.

As part of these roadside checks, officers will dip fuel tanks in some vehicles – identifying the potential use of red diesel. If red diesel is discovered, the vehicle can be seized and a £400 fine is issued.

Supt Marshall continued: “We know that it is a big issue for rural communities and we will aim to make them feel safe and help them secure their property.

“By targeting those that steal and those that buy stolen property we will hopefully drive down the market and people will start to see a big difference.

“A lot of this is about vigilance, we need to know if you spot suspicious vehicles in and around your area, noting registration numbers and details of vehicles is always a great help to us. We would always rather you called us than become a victim of crime.”

Regular updates will be issued via the @KingsLynnPolice Twitter account, using #OpTank.

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