Source: Kent Live
An East Grinstead café has hit out at cooking oil thieves, saying it has lost £18,000 after a decade of minor thefts.
No one has yet been prosecuted, and Sussex Police has now said it needs the public’s help solving the “mystery”. Together with the cafe’s owners officers are calling for people to keep an eye out.
Under normal circumstances, Rumblin’ Tums Café, in London Road, would be paid between £20 to £40 a week for its used cooking oil. And it needs to complete the transaction to show it recycles the waste responsibly, complying with environmental regulations.
But the normal circumstances are less normal than they ought to be as the owners say the oil is stolen “about 50 per cent of the time”.
Sandra Sheridan, 52, who owns Rumblin’ Tums with her husband, said: “It’s the skulduggery of it all.
“They have stolen over £18,000, then there’s the cost of the unit we bought to lock the oil in – within two weeks it had been jimmied open and damaged.”
She said they had also bought supposedly unbreakable bike locks and chains, but those were also taken.
“We work very hard whereas for someone to think they can just turn up and take it away – we open at 6.15am and they can be gruelling days.
“They have even taken it when we are open. If they see we are really busy they obviously know they can come and take it away and we won’t be able to stop it.”
Mrs Sheridan said she has even caught them in the act: “I’m not scared of confronting them – I’m more annoyed.
“But it can be frightening – you don’t know what people are prepared to do to get away with something.
“One time when I confronted them they offered to pay me money. But we can’t do that. We have to show environmental health that we have disposed of it responsibly.”
“The mystery of it is they can never track a person down,” she said. “Once someone has been caught, but they never showed up for court.
“And the mystery is it goes but where is it going. Someone is buying it off them.”
The cooking oil can be used to make biofuel, although in this case there is no evidence to show why it is being taken.
“The guy who does our collection says he sees this everywhere,” Mrs Sheridan said. “Because of where we are with a quiet alleyway I think we are being especially targeted.”
And Mrs Sheridan said thefts are punishing the café for keeping standards high and using fresh oil.
She wants people to keep a look out for suspicious activity, and not to buy secondhand cooking oil from unauthorised suppliers.
PCSO Nathan Lax, of Sussex Police, said: “We have made detailed enquiries into these incidents but so far nobody has seen anything and they have occurred sporadically – there has been no fixed pattern to the thefts so it has been difficult to establish information about any suspects or vehicles.
“Although each individual theft may not be of great value, the cumulative impact on the café proprietors is mounting.”
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