Thieves Target Grease From Restaurants

By: Lily Wu - Email
By: Lily Wu - Email

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Friday, November 4, 2011

The thieves are targeting restaurants with large vats of grease, which they sell to be converted into animal feed and bio-diesel fuel.

Employees at Charlie's Famous Burgers dump grease from cooking burgers and fries into a container outside the restaurant.

"For them to be stealing, it is coming out of our income. We're barely surviving as it is. We are a small company. We ain't nothing big. We're not McDonalds, so every little counts," said the manager at Charlie's, Samuel Cobos.

Restaurants like Charlie's get paid for the used cooking oil from legitimate haulers. But thieves have also taken interest in the grease market.

"Two years ago, even police wouldn't have given second thought, but now we know to be looking for them," said Lt. Mike Hennessy, Wichita Police. "These thefts have really picked up since the price of animal fat basically quadrupled in the last three to four years."

Around midnight on Oct. 21, two men in a small tanker truck drove into the Sonic Drive-in at 110 S. West St. They told employees they were there to collect the grease. They then drained the grease pit into their truck.

Wichita Police are looking for these two suspects. They are both described as white, of average height and build, and wearing work clothes.

"That's a big red flag for us. If we get a report that this type of activity is occurring at night, then we know that more likely it's going to be criminal activity," said Hennessy.

Employees at Charlie's say they'll be checking the locks near the grease vats and making sure drivers are legitimately working for the hauling company.

"It is a concern but now that I do know, I will be asking and seeing if there's a logo on the side of the truck 'cause if they're not, I should be aware, and I should report it," said Cobos.

If you have information about these thefts, call Crime Stoppers at (316) 267-2111.

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