The theft of used kitchen grease might seem like an innocuous crime, but don’t tell that to Art Gonzales.

That’s because his company, Baker Commodities Inc. of Vernon, collects the grease from area restaurants, processes it and then sells it as biodiesel fuel. As the price of grease skyrockets, Baker is losing hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to thieves who make midnight raids to break open containers left outside restaurants and siphon out the used grease.

Baker, some other major grease recycling companies and restaurants are pushing for a crackdown on grease theft with a state law to toughen penalties for thieves, impose stricter licensing procedures for grease haulers and, most importantly, give local police the authority to impound trucks suspected of illegally hauling the stuff for up to 15 days.

The bill, AB 1566 by Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, passed the Assembly last month on a unanimous vote and awaits hearings in the state Senate.

After Baker Commodities took measures to secure its containers, losses were reduced; at one point, the company said that it was losing $1 million a year in revenue to grease thefts.

“This was a huge problem for us, cutting into every aspect of our business,” said Gonzales, the company’s chief of security.

Because Baker did what it could to reduce the thefts on its own but is still losing substantial sums, he said the law has to be tougher.

Read the full story in the June 9 weekly edition of the Business Journal.