LAPORTE | People are now stealing used cooking oil hoping to make an extra dollar.
Police in LaPorte stopped a man whose van was equipped with a tank, motor and pump after a used cooking oil holding bin outside a bar was drained.
Surveillance video outside J.J.'s, a bar on Park Street, shows a similar looking van and suspect hooking up a hose to the oil bin Aug. 26, according to police.
According to police, an officer a week later stopped a van that fit the description and found the inside was equipped with a holding tank, pump and hose.
The video wasn't clear enough, though, to prove the driver stole the used cooking oil.
LaPorte police Chief of Detectives Tom Thate said efforts are still being made to try and prove whether the man did it.
Thate said thieves of scrap metal are common nowadays but he's never come across a case like this before.
"That's the first one one I'm aware of," said Thate, who wasn't sure if used oil thefts will become a trend.
The owner of the bar, Jorge Montemayor, told officers he sells the used oil once the bin is full.
The oil has value because it can be recycled for various uses like bio-diesel fuel.
Tom Buford, household waste coordinator for for the LaPorte County Solid Waste District, said used cooking oil often is turned in during household hazard waste collection days.
The district is charged 70 to 80 cents per gallon to dispose of the oil with a recycling company from East Chicago.
Buford said used cooking oil is also used in making cement.
"People are doing anything to make a buck," said Buford.