History of Crime Stoppers

(Borrowed from Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers with thanks. )

History of Crime Stoppers Programs in the USA

In the summer of 1976 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a teenage young man was working in a gas station to make extra money for college. One evening two men barged into the station, one holding a shotgun. They demanded money from the register. The young attendant apparently did not act fast enough and was shot at close range. He died on the floor of the gas station.

The police detective in charge of the case, Greg MacAleese, followed many leads over several weeks; all leading to dead ends. Finally, he and a local television news reporter came up with a novel idea. They filmed a reenactment of the crime and played it on the news on a Friday evening. They had come up with some donated money for a reward. Viewers were given the number to the detective’s phone and told they could call it anonymously if they had information. They were also told the reward would be paid in cash upon arrest – not conviction.

A caller phoned who had been in the area the night of the robbery. They had seen a vehicle that appeared suspicious and had written down the license number. The tip led to the arrest of two hardened criminals who were later tried and convicted in the murder. Something unexpected also happened the night of the telecast. Besides the call about the murder, Detective MacAlease received a score of calls from people who did not want to be identified but had information about other crimes. The veteran officer realized he had hit upon a gold mine.

Crime Stoppers was born.

In order to fund rewards and keep the system out of the control of police, a civilian volunteer board of directors was formed. It was their job to oversee the program and to raise funds. They became a 501.c.3. nonprofit and other cities were soon to follow. A set of standardized bylaws was adopted and the spread of the program was so rapid that a nationwide Crime Stoppers association was established. In 1986 the Internal Revenue Service gave Crime Stoppers exemptions from reporting payment to informants as long as anonymity was guaranteed.

The program spread to many cities in Canada and Crime Stoppers International was formed to insure standardized practices in all programs. Today Crime Stoppers U.S.A. is in every state in America and Crime Stoppers International covers almost 30 other nations from the United Kingdom to the Palau Islands and from Australia to Poland. Somewhere in the world more than two crimes are solved every minute thanks to calls to Crime Stoppers Hotlines.

San Diego County Crime Stoppers

San Diego County Crime Stoppers was established in 1984 by a small group of concerned citizens seeking a safer community.  This group established a nonprofit organization that brings together community volunteers, law enforcement, and the media with a shared goal—solving crime in San Diego.

Crime Stoppers’ proven strategies are simple.  We operate an anonymous tip hotline (888) 580- 8477 where citizens can call with information on any felony crime or suspected criminal activity.  We work with the media to publicize unsolved felony crime with the aim of bringing in tips from the public.

Crime Stoppers is based on the principle that for every crime committed, someone has information to solve that crime.  Crime Stoppers combats the three major problems law enforcement faces in gathering that information:

  • Fear of reprisal
  • Apathy
  • Reluctance to get involved

Crime Stoppers overcomes these challenges by providing citizens a safe way to anonymously report crime and rewards citizens for tips leading to an arrest.

In 1999, San Diego Unified School District partnered with Crime Stoppers to establish Campus Crime Stoppers.  Campus Crime Stoppers empowers students to do the right thing and create a safe environment for learning.

Today, federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies depend on San Diego County Crime Stoppers.   Every month, hundreds of calls come into our tip line and are shared with detectives all over the County for further investigation.  Crime Stoppers provides a critical link between the community and law enforcement.

Over the past 29 years, San Diego County Crime Stoppers has evolved from a good idea to a strong and vital presence in San Diego.  Crime Stoppers remains a nonprofit, charitable organization supported by responsible individuals and businesses that want to make San Diego safer.

To date, 4,000 cases have been solved through tips provided by Crime Stoppers, including 109 homicides.