Thieves have stolen nearly 10,000 litres of oil in just three months from storage tanks in a Hampshire town, it has been revealed.

Police say that spiralling prices are behind a huge increase in thefts involving domestic heating oil, diesel and kerosene in the Test Valley.

And with the average price of heating oil at 65p to 68p a litre, the thieves are raking it in.

Storage tanks have been targeted in villages and towns across the Test Valley with one town in particular being badly hit. Since the beginning of the year nearly 10,000 litres of oil have been stolen in the Romsey area alone.

Thefts have also been reported at Awbridge, Braishfield, Crampmoor, East and West Tytherley, Lockerley, West Wellow, Plaitford, Rownhams, Upper Timsbury and West Dean.

And in the Stockbridge and Andover areas eight domestic oil fuel thefts were recorded last month. This included fuel at Stockbridge, Houghton and Shipton Bellinger.

Oil tanks have also been hit at King’s Somborne, Little Somborne and Up Somborne during the last six months.

Police Sergeant Jo Nelson said that during the first three months of 2013 there had been 15 fuel thefts in the Romsey policing area.

“Even churches have been targeted on a couple of occasions.

“Police have completed forensic examinations at incidents where possible and actively sought witnesses to identify offenders and are continuing to do so,” said Sergeant Nelson, who urged all people with heating oil tanks to be on their guard and step up security in areas where fuel is stored.

“I would urge owners of heating tanks, especially living in rural locations, to strongly consider extra security such as security lighting, encasing it in a cage, defensive planting and fitting good quality padlocks and a remote gauge with an alarm.”

An official at Nursling-based domestic heating fuel supplier Watson confirmed customers had been reporting oil thefts.

“We are definitely hearing more and more about heating oil thefts.

“We’ve even heard of fuel tankers being used by the thieves.

“People are now topping up their storage tanks with smaller quantities rather than risk it being stolen,” said the Watson spokesperson.