Memphis to unveil new initiative to thwart copper thieves - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Memphis to unveil new initiative to thwart copper thieves

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    Friday, October 4 2013 3:43 PM EDT2013-10-04 19:43:45 GMT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) - Stealing copper from either a home or business is a fast way for a thief to make a couple of hundreds of dollars, even if the damage caused can cost thousands.

The Wharton administration says in extreme cases the home is abandoned by the owner, which can lead to blight. Mayor A C Wharton's office will soon unveil a program to try and stop copper crooks and business who buy the stolen metal.

The program is called Copper Stoppers, very similar to the existing crimefighting initiative called CrimeStoppers, administered by former Memphis Police Director Buddy Chapman.

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"It's going to be (901) 528-CASH," Chapman said. "You want to know who is ripping the metal off, so and so.  You want to know who is buying metal from these people and who is stealing the metal, whatever they might know."

In the past 12 months, Memphis Police have made more than 100 arrests for copper thefts; many of them crooks who have been caught before, Chapman said. The goal of Copper Stoppers is not only targeting crooks but business who knowingly buy stolen metal.

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Tips that point investigators to merchants who buy stolen metal can get up to $1,000 in reward money. The Wharton administration wants to target the supply and demand for ripped off copper.

"We want to go after people who are buying the metal as much as we go after the people who sell the metal," Chapman said.

The Wharton administration has raised nearly $8,000 and wants to have at least $10,000 before the program is announced.

The mayor’s office may also announce tougher sentences and better enforcement of copper theft after holding high level meetings with representatives from Shelby County District Attorney’s Office, the U.S. Attorney for Western Tennessee, commercial and residential builders, and even the mayor's office from neighboring West Memphis, Ark.
 
“It’s a "multi-million dollar loss to the community” Chapman said.

According to the Shelby County District Attorney’s office, buyers can’t pay cash for copper, have to keep records for three years and sellers have to have a government identification and leave a thumb print. They also have to have a home address, not a post office box – where their check is to be mailed from the buyer.

Punishment for thefts and vandalism range from 11 months. The crimes can be 29 days in jail for a misdemeanor when the value is $500 and under. Felony crimes for stolen metal can range from 8-30 years in jail for a B felony when the value is $60,000 or greater.   



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