A NEW criminal craze is thought to be sweeping through businesses in the Bromley borough as criminals are targeting used cooking oil.

Petts Wood Cafe, in West Approach, has suffered two incidents in the last six weeks as thieves are believed to be converting it into bootleg car fuel.

Each month the director, James Williams, sells it on to a collection company, Gray’s Waste Services, so it can be recycled.

He was horrified to discover thieves had stolen the oil container from a side unit next to the cafe on June 26 - a day before it was due to be collected.

When he later checked the CCTV he noticed the same two men pictured taking the oil appeared to have visited the site a few days before to check the vat was full.

The theft happened again exactly a month later.

Mr Williams, who lives in Thamesmead, said: “It will happen again, there is no doubt. They use it to convert into diesel.”

“It was really bad walking in there and seeing what happened - that’s £140 out of the window.

“In hard times like these, with the recession, it is useful to have the extra money to help with bills.

“I just want all the businesses to know what is going on.”

Although he is putting in a metal gate and chains to make the unit safer, he remains concerned about future incidents.

He said: “If these people really want to get something, they will find a way to do it.

“When I reported it to the police, they said a lot of similar incidents had been reported in the borough, although I don’t feel they are taking it seriously.

“I am going to write to the borough commander about it.”

PC Tajinder Mahil, from the Petts Wood and Knoll Safer Neighbourhoods Team, said: "Having spoken to some local restaurants and pubs, it seems that theft of used cooking oil is a relatively recent issue, but businesses can take some simple steps to make their premises more secure so that they do not get targeted by thieves.

“Using better quality locks on storage areas and keeping items out of public sight can help reduce the risk of being targeted by thieves."

A Bromley police spokesman said: “We can confirm that police are investigating a theft at a cafe in West Approach, Petts Wood, in the early hours of 26 June.

“Two suspects stole a large container of used cooking oil from a storage area at the rear of the premises.

“Both suspects are described as white men, approximately 5ft 8ins tall and wearing dark clothing.”

Anyone with information should contact Police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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