Crime Stoppers was created as a result of a tragedy:
Michael Carmen was a young University of New Mexico student who was working at a small gas station in Albuquerque’s Northeast Height in July, 1976. On July 25th, 1976, Michael picked up an extra shift at the gas station and it was on this Friday that everything came to a tragic end. Two men robbed Michael’s gas station and then—for no apparent reason—fired a shotgun blast from less than 10 feet into his abdomen. Michael did live for a few hours after the shooting but was never able to tell detectives who it was that shot him. After six weeks of trying to piece evidence together to solve the murder, there seemed no further information to a reason why Michael was killed or who did it.
Detective MacAleese, who worked for a newspaper before joining the Albuquerque Police Department, 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, guaranteed anonymity for anyone who was willing to call him with information and 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.
The reasoning for reenacting the crime was simple. They had an eyewitness to Michael’s murder somewhere in the community. The only logical approach was to get the media to do find that witness for them. If they reenacted the crime, they might be able to trigger the memory of a potential eyewitness, someone who might have seen part of the crime committed but not understood what he or she was witnessing. It seemed almost unnecessary to take such extraordinary steps to solve the killing of Carmen.
MacAleese's plan to identify those responsible for killing Carmen worked. Within a few hours after the recreation of the murder was broadcast on television station KOAT, 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 bar 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 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.