When a young college student, Michael Carmen, was shot to death during a robbery at an Albuquerque, New Mexico 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. MacAleese knew something innovative would be necessary to encourage the public to help solve the murder. At the time, Albuquerque had one of the highest per capita crime rates in the country and people were afraid to help the police.
He conceived the idea of producing a video re-enactment of the homicide and guaranteed anonymity to anyone who was willing to call him with information. He also put up a reward from his own pocket to encourage someone to provide a lead that would help identify those responsible for the murder of Carmen.
Just a few hours after the recreation of the murder was broadcasted on television, MacAleese received a phone call. The reenactment 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.
Through investigation, MacAleese and a team of detectives arrested two men within 72 hours and charged them with the murder of Carmen and a string of other 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 ever Crime Stoppers program.
For his efforts, Detective MacAleese was named the country's Police Officer of the Year in 1976. It's also interesting to note that since adopting Crime Stoppers, Albuquerque's crime rate has dropped significantly and no longer is ranked in the list of 20 cities with the highest per capita crime rate.