Tough times render rancid crimes. In fact, slick thieves have taken to stealing used grease from behind Detroit-area restaurants--that's right, the stuff in which french fries, mozzarella sticks, and the like are cooked. Ray Castine, president of Cedar Springs Rendering Co., a Michigan company hired by eateries to haul the goo away for recycling, says lard bandits cost his tiny outfit $250,000 a year.
The crooks sell the hot oil for cash to recyclers, who refine it for use in cosmetics, paint, plastic, and animal feed. The crime wave hardly alarms local cops. "Detroit and Pontiac police have given us incredible looks," says Castine. "They say, `unless they are doing it with guns, then we can't be bothered.' " Houston is sliding down the same slippery slope. One thief there, police say, made more than $60,000 one year from his ill-gotten grease.