LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE 28 / WYOU 22 EYEWITNESS NEWS) — It’s a bizarre crime, now becoming increasingly common. Thieves are ripping off vats of used cooking oil and police say it’s happening here and across Pennsylvania.

Olyphant police say at least six bars and restaurants in Lackawanna County have had used cooking oil stolen from their collection vats.

“He called me and said that he heard some noise outside and when he went outside there was a white van out there and it was syphoning oil out of our oil dumpster,” said Cathy Poronsky, co-owner of Bud’s Bar and Grill.

Poronsky tells us her brother tried to stop the person from leaving, but the thief sped off. She says they watched the surveillance video and saw the person stealing the used cooking oil had staked out the place earlier.

Bud’s Bar and Grill isn’t the only eatery in Lackawanna County that had its used cooking oil stolen.

The most recent report of stolen cooking oil came Monday evening from Benny’s Sports Bar and Restaurant in Blakely, but Blakely police aren’t sure exactly when it was stolen as collection occurs every few months. Police explain why someone might steal the oil.

“Right now it’s worth about $4.50 a gallon, which is more than gasoline right now. So if you take that into consideration, you get 350 gallons that’s a lot of money,” explained Blakely Police Chief Guy Salerno.

Restaurants sell the oil to companies too. That money is now lost to them.

“They’re not only taking it from us, they’re not taking it from a businesses. They’re taking it from a family. They’re taking it from employees, they’re taking our ability away to pay our bills and sustain our business,” said Poronsky.

Police say thefts have occurred in several other communities as well. Luigi’s Pizza in Olyphant was also ripped off, the owners say they feel violated.

Other locations that have had oil stolen include Bud’s Bar and Grill in Archbald, and Luigi’s in Olyphant.  

“We’ve endured a rough year and a half, and someone coming in on our property and stealing something as silly as cooking oil almost feels like a violation of our own personal space,” said Vincenzo Cicco, co-owner of Luigi’s Pizza.

Police are asking restaurant owners to keep their used cooking oil vats in sight of security cameras. They say that will help law enforcement with investigations if the oil is stolen.