Plan to stop copper thefts in the works - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Plan to stop copper thefts in the works

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MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC-TV) - Copper stoppers? A new Crime Stoppers number might be in the works, specifically for copper theft cases, as city officials work to remedy the problem.

After hearing countless stories from churches, homes, schools, nonprofits, businesses, and constituents, the City of Memphis is taking on copper theft.

"They've come in, busted out the sheet rock, stole all my copper, and it's very, very expensive to fix all this," said property owner Steve Phillips.

Phillips says no one has been caught in regards to the copper stolen from his property, and he believes it may be an enforcement issue.

Property manager Marshall Gordon says the person who stole his copper got locked up... but only briefly.

"The thieves did $20,000 worth of damage, the police department was lucky enough to catch them. It was a miracle," said Gordon. "They caught the individual, but the courts let us down. They let the criminal that had a rap sheet a mile long out on $300 bond. We'll never see him again. He's in Arizona somewhere."

Memphis police say two sergeants are assigned full time to a scrap metal unit. They suggest a database listing all convicted scrap thieves and an ordinance banning them from selling ever again.

"It's just killing us," said Memphis Mayor A C Wharton. "This is more than just gravel in a shoe."

Mayor Wharton says scrap metal theft is harming the city's tax base by discouraging potential investors.

His administration is now working with property owners, police, and state legislators to find a solution.

"We're going to go after it on all fronts because it is a significant problem, particularly in the core city where we're focusing so much of our energy on blight and trying to get business back," said Wharton.

Wharton says he will meet with mayors in Mississippi and Arkansas to ask for their help. He also plans to enlist help from federal investigators.

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