Geddes (WSYR-TV) -- An unusual crime trend seems to be popping up all over New York State. Thieves are targeting used cooking oil and according to police, they’ve struck more than a dozen times in Central New York.
Police say the thieves are targeting parking lots of both stores and restaurants.
French fries, chicken wings and mozzarella sticks are on the menu at Kostas in East Syracuse, which requires a lot of cooking oil. The restaurant’s owner says they go through 75 to 100 pounds of cooking oil per week.
Stores and restaurants dispose of their used cooking oil in large containers, but some business owners say their containers have been emptied before licensed carting companies can collect it.
Kostas owner Kostas Kousmanidis is surprised that cooking oil is being stolen. He said, “I'm really surprised by that, because usually it's a big container, so how do they steal it.”
Two men in a large white truck were caught on tape stealing the oil. They drove right up to a container filled with grease in a Fairmount supermarket parking lot and emptied the entire bin. The company contracted to buy the used oil alerted Geddes Police.
Setting up surveillance and working with other police agencies, Geddes Police busted the thieves. Among them, a 60-year-old man from New York City, and police learned there’s a market for used cooking oil.
“It gets recycled into biodiesel fuel, the glossiness in lipstick that is refined reuses cooking oil,” said Geddes Police Investigator Chris Lukins.
Thieves can make more money from cooking oil than scrap metal. And while police found who was behind this particular operation, they still don’t know where the oil was headed.
“I don’t know if they’re taking it back to New York City or if they have a refinery back here,” Investigator Lukins continued.
Police are asking stores and restaurants to let police know if they’ve been the victim of cooking oil theft.