RURAL homeowners in Berkshire on oil-fired central heating are being reminded that they are prime targets for winter criminals.

Police are warning residents to guard against thefts during January and February when the demand for oil increases.

A Rural Crimes survey carried out by NFU Mutual showed fuel was the third most attractive commodity for thieves targeting country homes and businesses.

Malcolm Farrow, from OFTEC, the Oil Firing Technical Association, said: “This is an issue that we can’t stress enough at this time of year as no one wants to run out of oil and risk going cold.

“If more people are aware and vigilant of oil thefts in rural communities, hopefully there will be fewer victims of this crime.

“Thefts can take place at any time of year as thieves are extremely opportunistic. However, January and February often brings the harshest weather and this, combined with people feeling the pinch after Christmas, can make the early new year a popular time for thieves to strike.” A police guide to help beat the oil thieves suggests: ·Fit a lockable cap or padlock to your oild tank ·Install a motion sensitive security light ·Buy a fuel gauge alarm ·Display a warning that your tank is alarmed ·Install a CCTV camera near your tank ·Look out for suspicious vehicles, especially on the day of your oil delivery Chief Supt Tim De Meyer, responsible for neighbourhood policing and partnerships, said: “Heating oil theft is of course more common in rural areas and rural crimes such as this are a priority. We recommend taking simple precautions to protect your tank as doing so will considerably reduce your risk of becoming a victim of crime.”