Last week, a vacant home at 1104 Beechwood in South Memphis went up in flames, the result of a suspected arson. That home was one of 223 arsons committed in the last nine months in Memphis.
Of those 223 arsons, only 47 arrests have been made, according to records kept by the Memphis Fire Department. The arsons have resulted in an estimated $4 million in property damage.
The Memphis Fire Department and CrimeStoppers held a press conference this afternoon in front of the burned-out Beechwood home to draw attention to the city's arson problem. The department is putting new focus on urging the public to report any tips on suspected arsons to CrimeStoppers at 528-CASH.
CrimeStoppers executive director Buddy Chapman said he can only remember one arson tip ever made to CrimeStoppers.
"Most people don't realize arson is a felony. They don't realize they can call 528-CASH and get a cash reward, anonymously," Chapman said.
The one arson tip Chapman does remember actually resulted in a reward that was paid this morning. It came from a woman in 2008, who reported seeing a man exiting a smoking building on Jefferson in Midtown. That man, Willie Tyler, confessed to that fire, and eventually pleaded guilty to all seven arsons that had occurred in abandoned buildings in Midtown's Washington Bottoms.
May is National Arson Prevention Month.