The History of Crime Stoppers
When college student Michael Carmen was shot to death during a robbery at an Albuquerque, NM gas station in July 1976, Detective Greg MacAleese had no idea who was responsible for the killing. No witnesses came forward and it appeared the senseless and brutal shotgun slaying would remain a mystery. Carmen was two weeks away from his wedding and had taken an extra shift at the gas station to give a co-worker the night off. When police responded to an emergency call, they found Carmen gravely wounded. He'd been shot in the abdomen at point blank range with a 12-guage shotgun.
Doctors were able to keep Carmen alive for four hours, and he tried to tell them who was responsible, but didn't have the strength to form the words. It was a case that should have outraged the community and brought forth many witnesses, but no one came forward. At that time, Albuquerque had one of the highest per capita crime rates in the country and people were afraid to help the police.
MacAleese, who had worked for a newspaper before moving in law enforcement, knew something innovative would be necessary to encourage the public to get involved and help solve the murder. He came up with the idea of producing a video re-enactment of the homicide, guaranteed anonymity for anyone willing to call him with information, and put up a reward with money from his own pocket hoping someone would help him identify the suspects in Carmen's murder.
The detective's plan to find the killers worked. Within a few hours after the re-enactment of the murder aired on TV, MacAleese got a phone call. THe video had triggered the memory of someone who had heard a loud bang in the vicinity of the gas station and saw a car driving off. The caller told MacAleese the vehicle belonged to a resident in a nearby apartment complex.
Albuquerque Police Department detectives were able to arrest two men within 72 hours and charged them with Carmen's murder as well as with a string of armed robberies.
MacAleese received other calls following the re-enactment, including one that allowed police to solve a rape case. Realizing this type of program might be useful in fighting crime, he worked with the Police Department and local citizens to establish the first Crime Stoppers program.
For his efforts, MacAleese was named one of the people in the 1970s who changed the face of the United States and was also named the country's Police Officer of the Year. Since the program started in Albuquerque, the city's crime rate dropped significantly and it's no longer ranked in the top 20 list of cities with the highest per capita crime rate.