ARRESTS have been made after a police crackdown on heating oil thefts.

Operation Latchkey was launched by south Flintshire’s Neighbourhood Policing Team to combat thieves targeting churches and village halls.

So far seven people have been arrested as police continue to hunt for those responsible.

Properties in Gwernaffield and Pantymwyn, Soughton Memorial Hall and churches in Gwernaffield, Cilcain, Nercwys and Rhydymwyn were among those targeted with more than £4,500 worth of oil stolen.

Public concern over thefts has been rising as the cost of fuel soars.

Soughton councillor Marion Bateman said the village hall had now changed its heating source to gas.

She said: “I’m pleased this operation has proved so successful. It shows that team work within the community and the police works. It is wonderful news.

“The thefts have had a devastating affect for the community of Soughton. It has cost us almost £2,000 which we can’t get back.

“Unfortunately we have had to change the heating system because of it. We did not want to take the risk. That is another expense.”

Figures from North Wales Police show oil thefts are increasing with 110 crimes reported between April last year and the end of January.

Inspector Tony Wan said: “The price of fuel has risen significantly in recent months and we are advising owners to make their tanks more secure. People have a range of options, from installing locks and alarms to putting fencing up around the tank.

“This message applies to both domestic and commercial premises which use oil tanks for heating or storage.”

South Flintshire Inspector Martin Best said Operation Latchkey and investigations were still ongoing.

He said: “To date, Operation Latchkey has resulted in seven arrests and I’d like to reassure residents that this policing operation will continue.

“We are also calling on residents to report anything suspicious they may see and to contact officers immediately on 101.”

Individuals can also provide information anonymously by contacting Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.