My Crime Fighting Hero

by Diane Dimond on December 20, 2008

Greg MacAleese, the father of Crime Stoppers

Detective Greg MacAleese

Time Magazine has its ‘Person of the Year’ award. I have my ‘Crime Fighter of the Year’ award and this year it goes to Greg MacAleese a former Detective with the Albuquerque, New Mexico Police Department.

This lifetime achievement honor is long overdue because Greg MacAleese has changed the world by making it a safer place to live.

One quiet, snowy afternoon in February 1976 Detective MacAleese sat down at his desk and typed the word CRIME onto a sheet of paper … He had been plagued about the FBI’s designation of Albuquerque as the city with the highest crime rate (per capita) in the nation. MacAleese ruminated about what he could do to change that.

His background in journalism taught him how powerful an ally the media could be. His police work had shown him how vital it was for citizens to step forward and tell what they knew so police could solve crimes. But in Albuquerque in the mid-70’s the population most affected by crime was scared to death to get involved.

Out of those solitary ruminations sprung MacAleese’s idea to get both the public and the media fully invested in crime fighting. He named his brainchild “Crime Stoppers.”crimestoppers-strip

The official launch date for Crime Stoppers was September 8, 1976, when MacAleese convinced his superiors to allow him to produce a video re-enactment of a murder and offer a reward for information.

A college student named Michael Carmen, two weeks shy of his wedding day, had been gunned down while working at a gas station. No witnesses, no leads. After the re-enactment aired on KOAT-TV, eyewitness information led detectives to two suspects. Within 72 hours they were arrested and tied to a string of armed robberies. MacAleese paid the reward out of his own pocket.

This forward thinking Detective heard many complaints from fellow officers. Some called him “Cecil B. De MacAleese” for his video re-creations. Others on the force openly mistrusted the media and they didn’t want to share investigative details with the public for fear of spoiling their court cases. Some wanted to know why citizens should be rewarded for stepping up to do their civic duty. But MacAleese, encouraged by his Police Chief Bob Stover, kept refining his idea, insisting it would bring down the crime rate.

csoriginal He pushed and cajoled until Crime Stopper segments became a weekly offering on Albuquerque TV, then on radio and finally in the newspaper. It was the perfect partnership of police, media and citizenry that MacAleese had dreamed about that snowy February day. Witnesses to all sorts of crimes began to call in. In the first year 298 cases were closed because of Crime Stopper informants, including 13 homicides and more than 20 rapes.

Crime Stoppers evolved over the years and MacAleese’s insistence that witnesses always be guaranteed complete anonymity, coupled with a reward fund of public donations (no taxpayers’ dollars) insured the program flourished. Early on Crime Stoppers was touted in the New York Times and on NBC’s Today Show and other police departments eagerly started their own branches with similar results.

Today there are Crime Stoppers programs in all 50 states and in 24 countries. MacAleese says in India, for example, they’ve been especially successful solving banking crimes. In South Africa the program has focused on sex crimes and a huge number of rapes and sex related murders have been solved. All because someone who knew something picked up a phone and made an anonymous report.   cs-corner-logo

Collectively, MacAleese tells me, Crime Stoppers programs have helped solved more than 1 million major crimes and have assisted in the recovery of more than 8 billion dollars worth of stolen property and narcotics. Civilian volunteers have raised millions in reward money and more than 100 million dollars in rewards have been paid out.

Important to note, Greg MacAleese refused to ever trademark the Crime Stoppers idea. He receives no royalties and says his satisfaction comes from seeing his “baby” become the world’s most successful anti-crime program in history.

Today, Crime Stoppers keeps pace with technology and generational habits. New computer software has been developed to allow citizens to anonymously transmit their information about crimes via the internet or over mobile phones. The software completely eliminates the tipster’s web address or cell phone number as it passes on vital information to investigators.

MacAleese achieved what so many idealists hope for. He got an idea and massaged it into reality. These days, he travels the world training others in the ways of effective law enforcement.

For 32 years Greg MacAleese has made it his life’s mission to try make the world safer, to find a way to engage us – all of us – toward the common good.

The power of us has achieved remarkable things – Thanks to my personal hero, Greg MacAleese.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Diane December 20, 2008 at 12:03 pm

Albuquerque Journal Reader Jan S. writes:
“What an inspiring article on Greg MacAleese. We knew of him before, but now have an inkling of how it all evolved – thank you for pulling me out of the depths of the negative headlines and into a bright world of hope!”

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Diane December 20, 2008 at 12:04 pm

Albuquerque Journal Reader Linda Sue C. writes:
“Dear Ms. Dimond:
After perusing your article, “Crime Fighter of Year: Duke City’s Greg MacAleese,” in the morning newspaper, Saturday, December 20, 2008, I would like to add to the accolades of Greg MacAleese.
Currently, I am a Return-To-Work retiree teacher for the Albuquerque Public Schools. In 1992 Mr. MacAleese formed a small group of teachers as classroom consultants/program authors, in conjunction with KOAT TV, to write an educational series of 65 animated, 30-second vignettes. The vignettes aired on the nightly news and were designed to help make television a teaching tool, “The 30-Second Lesson Plan.” I found that Mr. MacAleese was a devoted citizen to the idea of helping children to learn and to the educational system and community. It was a very rewarding experience to work with Mr. MacAleese and this group of veteran and accomplished educators.
As Mr. MacAleese, my son is also a member of the law enforcement community, serving as a deputy with the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department.
I highly commend Greg MacAleese for his devotion and commitment in his life’s mission in trying to make the world a safer place and in working toward the common good.

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Jackie Chesnutt December 21, 2008 at 4:39 pm

What a terrific article about a terrific man. Thanks for sharing this with us. Diane, your contributions are greatly appreciated.

Happy holidays to you and your family.

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Diane December 21, 2008 at 5:13 pm

Albuquerque Journal Reader Paul B. writes:

” I read your article of Saturday, December 20, 2008 in the Albuquerque Journal about Detective MacAleese. Thank you so much for brining this important contribution to light. This man is a true American hero, it is unfortunate that he cannot be recognized on the national level. This is a time in our history when we need true heroes. I appreciate all that you do to inform your readers. Nice going!”

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Lyn December 21, 2008 at 5:21 pm

Wow, this is wonderful Diane. I have heard of Crime Stoppers but was not aware that it was all started through Mr. MacAleese. You are right, he is a hero and deserves as much recognition as possible for his efforts on reducing cime. This was really interesting to find out. Once again, a great one Diane.

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Randy Burge December 22, 2008 at 12:25 am

Thank you, Diane, for recognizing and sharing with your large audience the auspicious origins and cumulative successes of Greg MacAleese and his visionary Crime Stoppers program. His is a classic story of true innovation trumping pride and prejudices to benefit societies across the globe. Greg and his program are truly one of New Mexico’s greatest exports (along with Diane Dimond!). –Facebook friend, ABQ Journal reader, Randy Burge.

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Matt Kimberly December 22, 2008 at 1:00 am

Thank you so much for writing such an inspiring story, Diane. I always wondered how ‘Crime Stoppers’ got its start. It’s even more encouraging that he has received no financial compensation for his ‘baby’.

In a world of economic and political turmoil, Greg McAleese is a breath of fresh air and an encouragement to others to do the right thing.

God bless you, Diane. Merry Christmas!

Matt

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DianeDimond January 8, 2009 at 12:56 pm

Albuquerque Journal Reader Sgt. Brian M of A.P.D. writes:

"I just happened upon your article on Officer MacAleese. It was nice to see your kind words for him in a public arena. His idea truly gave law enforcement, across the world, another dimension to fight crime.

The Albuquerque Police Department takes pride in the fact the Crime Stoppers was developed here and is still going strong today. A total of 123 Felony arrests were made in 2008 with tips coming in from our community.

Thanks for recognizing his hard work and dedication to this program."

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