Metal theft criminals could face tougher punishments - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Metal theft criminals could face tougher punishments

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton says metal thefts are devastating the city. He is searching everywhere for solutions. Memphis Mayor A C Wharton says metal thefts are devastating the city. He is searching everywhere for solutions.

(WMC-TV) - Metal theft has become a big problem in the City of Memphis. The mayor is working to tackle thefts by introducing sweeping reforms.

The mayor says one big issue with scrap metal theft is that the thieves get off with just a slap on the wrist. He convened a meeting of the minds at city hall in an effort to get a grip on the situation.

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton says metal thefts are devastating the city. He is searching everywhere for solutions.

"We're going to work with the D.A. to patch what seems to be a little glitch in the system," he said.

During a sit-down meeting in his office with police, Crime Stoppers, the chamber, the West Memphis mayor, and others, Wharton says they've hatched a plan. Part of that plan includes making the time fit the crime.

"The average customer who comes in and sells that stuff it may be valued at 75 or 80 bucks. That's a misdemeanor," said Wharton. "To steal 40 dollars worth of copper you'll do $4- or $5,000 worth of damage."

He continued, "We want to make sure that the punishment is based upon the full amount of the damage that is done to the victim."

Brandy Ingram discovered the recent copper theft at The Cottage Restaurant. It cost the owners thousands of dollars in air conditioner repairs. They also lost revenue because they had to shut down the restaurant during the repairs.

"Don't steal someone else's stuff," said Ingram. "Even if they make it a law or bigger laws or more laws it still doesn't mean that people aren't going to break them. The more laws you have the more people are going to break them."

Wharton says no new laws are necessary, but instead, a change in the way current laws are enforced and specific crimes communicated to prosecutors.

"We're not going to resign ourselves to this. It should not be tolerated. And we're not going to tolerate it," said Wharton.

Mayor Wharton says Crime Stoppers and the City of Memphis will unveil a dedicated reward hotline for scrap metal theft.

He says he is soliciting help from mayors across the river to come up with a detailed plan that is expected to be released in just a few weeks.

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