WASHINGTON - National Bank of Commerce in Memphis announced this week that it will earn CRA credit for helping to protect nursing home residents from criminals.

The bank said that in March the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency approved its request to get CRA credit for its investment in Senior Housing Crime Prevention Foundation Investment Corp. The nonprofit corporation, which the bank set up, brings an anticrime program to nursing homes caring for people with low or moderate incomes.

The bank also announced a new $5.5 million contribution Monday. The money counts toward the CRA investment test, one of three key components to the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act, which requires banks to give back to areas where they take deposits.

The foundation supports Senior Crimestoppers, which provides personal lockboxes to nursing home residents as well as ongoing education and a hot-line service that offers cash rewards for confidential information about criminal incidents.

Senior Crimestoppers now operates in 47 states. The bank began supporting the program in 1995.

The $5.5 million contribution is meant to benefit more than 4,800 low- and moderate-income residents in 26 nursing homes in Shelby County, Tennessee. Other banks can also contribute to the foundation to help people in their own areas.

"Crime in nursing homes is a sad but very real problem throughout our nation," William C. Menkel, president of $7.8 billion-asset National Bank of Commerce, said in a news release. "We wanted to pursue an investment that had an immediate, proven impact on the quality of life for these important members of our community."

Senior Crimestoppers officials said their program has reduced crime by more than an 84% reduction in nursing homes where it is in place.

The Comptroller's Office is helping banks find creative ways to meet the CRA investment test, which banks say they have had a tough time satisfying. Earlier this year the agency raised San Diego National Bank's CRA score to "outstanding" in part because of its investment in a special mutual fund that finds qualified investments in banks' assessment areas.

Officials predicted that other banks will now contribute to the program in their areas.

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