In July 1976, a young college student named Michael Carmen was shot to death during a robbery at an Albuquerque, New Mexico gas station. At that time Albuquerque had one of the highest per capita crime rates in the country and people were afraid to help the police. No witnesses came forward, and it appeared the senseless and brutal shotgun slaying would remain a mystery.
Detective Greg MacAleese of the Albuquerque Police Department was assigned to the case. He knew something innovative would be necessary to encourage the public to get involved and help solve the murder. He conceived the idea of producing a video re-enactment of the homicide. He guaranteed anonymity for anyone who was willing to call him with information, and he put up a reward from his own pocket to encourage someone to provide a lead that would help identify those responsible for the murder.
MacAleese's plan worked. Within a few hours after the video was broadcast on television, he received a phone call. The video image had triggered the memory of a person who heard a loud bang in the vicinity of the gas station and then saw a car driving off. The caller told MacAleese the vehicle belonged to a resident in a nearby apartment complex. Within 72 hours, MacAleese and a team of detectives arrested two men and charged them with Carmen's murder and a string of armed robberies.
MacAleese received other calls following the reenactment, including one that allowed police to solve the rape of a young woman. Realizing that this type of program might be useful in fighting crime, MacAleese convinced the Albuquerque Police Department to allow a group of citizens to establish the first Crime Stoppers program.
Since adopting the Crime Stoppers program, Albuquerque's crime rate has dropped significantly. Now, Crime Stoppers programs have spread throughout the country allowing citizens to anonymously submit information for cash rewards.