About Crime Stoppers

The Crime Stoppers Story – By Greg MacAleese (Founder)

The two criminals who shot down Michael Carmen at his gas station in July, 1976, didn't realize that they would be responsible for a world-wide anti-crime movement that has resulted in the solution of more than 425,000 major crimes. They didn't realize that as a result of their cold-blooded killing more than 75,000 criminals would find themselves behind bars. Nor did they realize that their crime would become the model of two major television network shows. No, the two criminals who shot Michael Carmen at point-blank range with a .12 gauge shotgun did not realize that their crime would serve as the catalyst for the creation of Crime Stoppers.

Michael Carmen

Michael Carmen was a young University of New Mexico student, who was working a small gas station in Albuquerque's Northeast Heights in July, 1976. He was only two weeks away from marrying his high school sweetheart. On the night he was killed, he was working an extra shift because one of his friends needed the night off.

On that fateful night, 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. Remarkably, Michael lived for more than four hours after the shooting. Several times he tried to tell detectives who it was who shot him but he didn't have the strength. He died on the operating table without being able to make a dying declaration.

I was one of the detectives working that case. The murder seemed so senseless at the time. It still remains senseless today. But I told Michael Carmen's mother that we would bring his killers to justice. And yet after six weeks of trying to piece evidence together to solve the murder, we were no closer to a solution than we were the night he was killed.

First Reenactment

It was really out of desperation that I approached Max Sklower, then general manager of KOAT-TV in Albuquerque, and asked him if we could reenact the crime for one of his newscasts. My reasoning for reenacting the crime was simple. I felt we had an eyewitness to Michael Carmen's murder somewhere in the community. But how was I going to reach out in a city of some 350,000 people and pluck out an eyewitness?

The only logical approach was to get the media to do it for me. Then it came to me that if we reenacted the crime, we 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.

I did not take much of a sales job to convince Max Sklower to broadcast a reenactment of Michael Carmen's killing on KOAT-TV. He quickly agreed.

On September 8, 1976, the first crime reenactment was broadcast on KOAT-TV's 10 o'clock news. The next morning I received a call from a young man who told me that he had watched the reenactment on television. He said he remembered walking home from a party on the night Michael Carmen was killed and that he had heard a loud bang, almost like the noise made by a large firecraker.

He said shortly after the blast, a car heading west from the gas station passed him at high speed. The caller said there were two men inside the vehicle, but that he couldn't recognize them. But, he added, he though he had seen the car before and that it belonged to a resident in a nearby apartment complex.

The caller's information was the missing link we needed to solve Michael Carmen's murder. By finding the killer's getaway vehicle, we were able to trace it back to one of the two gunmen.

The second offender was caught a short time later. It took us just 72 hours to solve Michael Carmen's murder, once we received the caller's tip. Six other armed robberies were also solved as a result of our investigation.

Birth of Crime Stoppers

As a result of our first televised reenactment, I was able to convince the Albuquerque Police Department that we needed this kind of program on a regular basis. I know that most major crimes were solved not by brilliant investigation on the part of the police, but as a direct result of information provided by the public. However, many citizens were reluctant to provide this information for two reasons – Fear and apathy.

So I designed Crime Stoppers to overcome these two barriers. For those people who were afraid of retaliation from the criminal element, I created a system that would allow callers to Crime Stoppers to remain completely anonymous. And for these citizens who were apathetic, I established a system that would provide cash rewards for information leading to the solution of a major crime.