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Memphis starts program to deter copper thieving

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Officials in Memphis have launched an initiative aimed at decreasing copper thefts in the city.

The CopperStoppers program will offer a financial reward if people supply information that leads to an arrest.

The program will give up to $250 to someone for information leading to an arrest of a suspect in a copper theft and up to $1,000 for information that leads to the arrest of someone who buys or transports stolen metal.

Mayor A.C. Wharton, local prosecutors, the Memphis Police Department and CrimeStoppers are collaborating on the campaign.

CopperStoppers is being funded by the Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce; the West Tennessee Home Builders Association; Memphis Light, Gas and Water; and private investors.

Darnell Capital Management CEO Scott Darnell told The Commercial Appeal that it is difficult to invest in his Memphis properties due to the number of thefts.

"More than half of the homes we own have been vandalized. That makes me not want to invest in Memphis," Darnell said.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau reports 713 claims for metal thefts were reported in Memphis between 2011 and 2013.

Danny Quinn, who manages homes for Darnell, says copper thieves have caused more than $200,000 in damage to homes in the Westwood neighborhood.

"It makes me madder than hell," said Quinn, of J.D. Marks Inc. Realtors. "We are here in places like this every day, and we see it."

Quinn said to deter future thefts he plans to install only central heat and let tenants use their own window air conditioning units.

"That's the last step before bailing out of the neighborhood completely," he said.

District Attorney General Amy Weirich said she thinks the program will benefit the city.

"What I do know as a criminal prosecutor is how successful CrimeStoppers has been helping us catch those who have committed crimes in our community. Taking what we have learned over the many years and applying that to CopperStoppers is going to have a good impact," Weirich said.

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