Crime Stoppers is an international organization that uses various media to inform and request that individual citizens report information on unsolved crimes to local law enforcement authorities. The organization was founded by Detective Greg MacAleese, who was trying to solve a murder in Albuquerque, New Mexico. After seeing a story about the crime on a local television station, a caller provided information to police that led to arrests and justice in the case. MacAleese then established Crime Stoppers in Albuquerque as a new tool for law enforcement, which encouraged ordinary citizens to speak up if they witnessed or learned of any type of crime or violence. By allowing citizens to make phone calls anonymously, officials could give assurances for the safety of the caller. Later, free long-distance phone lines and call centers were established to expand the region that accepted tips of possible crime. Area police would then follow up on tips. In some cases, if the tip resulted in a felony arrest, the caller might receive a cash or other reward.
By the 1990s, Crime Stoppers had expanded overseas. Today, Crime Stoppers International and Crime Stoppers U.S.A. have more than 1,100 programs in cities across the globe, including parts of Canada, Great Britain, Northern Ireland, Poland, and Puerto Rico. The mission statement of Crime Stoppers International is “to develop Crime Stoppers as an effective crime-solving organization throughout the world, with the primary objective of the tri-partite organization, Community, Media and Law Enforcement, being Working Together to Solve Crime.” The organization behind each Crime Stoppers program establishes targeted goals to reduce crime hotspots. Because the group is a nonprofit organization, some police departments collaborate with it as well as local television and newspaper media to seek information from the public on unsolved crimes by providing phone numbers and assuring anonymity. Crime Stoppers also produces an informational publication, known as The Caller, which includes coverage of various crime-related topics as well as training information for program participants.
In terms of solving crime cases, European news reports indicate that Crime Stoppers has been very effective in assisting law enforcement in solving a variety of violent and property crimes. Internationally, the organization has conveyed a strong message that–as a community agency–the public is responsible for reporting crimes and maintaining the neighborhood watch (which is a related program). Major law enforcement organizations support these efforts, including agencies such as the U.S. Marshals Service, the FBI, the Metro Police, and Scotland Yard. Around the globe, tip lines have been extensively advertised, with use of the well-known 1-800-SPEAK-UP number mushrooming after the rash of school shootings in the United States and in other areas with high crime rates.
Crime Stoppers initiated Scholastic Crime Stoppers in-school programs in Boulder, Colorado, in 1983. The focus of the school-based program ranges from middle schools to colleges, and it provides directives and guidance for students who may learn of a crime committed in the school or near it. Although schools are quite safe environments, Scholastic Crime Stoppers encourages anonymous reporting of school crime: thefts, damaging property, threats of violence, drug use or dealing, and weapons. More recently, it has urged reporting of students who indicate they have plans for hurting teachers or students. In addition to establishing hotlines, schools have initiated their own reporting methods, including commercial computer/cell-phone messaging systems called “Talk About It” that are used in hundreds of schools. In addition, other software uses global alert systems for text messaging, and automated emails are a commonplace community and school safety measure used in the United States.
Crime Stoppers has been a solid success in solving crime and deterring violence in communities and schools in many countries.
- Aryani, G., Alsabrook, C., & Garrett, Terry D. (2001). Scholastic Crime Stoppers. FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, 70(9), 1.