In August 1976, Greg MacAleese, a Canadian born police officer in Albuquerque, New Mexico was investigating a robbery/murder at a local gas bar. The area where the crime occurred was a very well traveled part of the city, yet no one would come forward with information on this crime.
McAleese determined that there were two reasons for the public’s lack of confidence in their police department. First, citizens were genuinely apathetic. In other words, why bother or what’s in it for me? Second, fear of criminal retaliation. Many citizens in Alburquerque believed that if they did come forward with information that they would be the criminal’s next victim.
Though frustrated, MacAleese determined that this case could be solved and approached his chief of police, local businesses and the media with an idea. To overcome apathy local business offered a cash reward as an incentive for anyone with information to call police. To overcome fear of criminal retaliation they offered callers complete anonymity. A local television station agreed to re-enact this crime. The re-enactment aired at approximately 10:45 p.m. during their newscast. By 8:00 a.m. the next morning, the crime was solved.
Impressed with the results, MacAleese sought the support of the chief of police to continue this type of approach to solving crime. The chief agreed that if Crime Stoppers could solve 30 serious crimes by the end of the year he would consider making it permanent part of the Alburquerque Police Department’s fight against crime. Over the following four months, Crime Stoppers solved 300 crimes and the Crime Stoppers program took off!
Today, there are more that 1,700 programs in 23 countries worldwide, all operating under the same ideas and principles that guided MacAleese almost 30 years ago.