Crime Stoppers or Crimestoppers is a community program that allows people to provide anonymous information about criminal activity. Often managed by non-profit groups or the police, it operates separately from the emergency telephone number system or other standard methods of contacting police. This allows a person to provide crime solving assistance to the authorities without being directly involved in the investigation process. Founded in the United States in 1976 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Crime Stoppers later caught on in Canada and the United Kingdom.
The authorities, especially the police, sometimes rely on information from the community about criminal activities or events. Crime Stoppers was developed to enable the public to participate without fear of reprisal and to make it easier for witnesses to volunteer information anonymously. There have been challenges to this aspect.
Crime Stoppers first began in Albuquerque, New Mexico in July 1976. That month Michael Carmen was fatally shot while he was working at night at a local filling station. After two weeks the police had not been able to gather any information about the killing. Detective Greg MacAleese approached the local television station to request they film a reconstruction of the crime. When the re-enactment was aired, the police department offered US$1,000.00 for information leading to the arrest of the killers. Within 72 hours, a male called in identifying a car which he had seen leaving the scene at high speed; he had noted its registration. The person calling said that he did not want to get involved; therefore, he had not called earlier.
Detective MacAleese realized that fear and apathy often prevented the public from getting involved. He helped design a system by which the public could anonymously provide details of the events. This system focused on stimulating community involvement and participation, and took advantage of electronic media to publicize unsolved crimes. The police offered cash rewards for information leading to an arrest and/or conviction.
Since the first chapter was officially formed in Albuquerque in 1976, Crime Stoppers in the United States has been responsible for more than half a million arrests and more than US$4 billion in recovered property.
Crime Stoppers spread to Canada and the United Kingdom. While the individual programs are local or regional in nature, mostly run by non-profit groups or directly by police, various national and international umbrella organizations exist. The toll-free telephone number +1-800-222-TIPS is used to reach various different Crime Stoppers groups in Canada and the U.S., although some groups publish their own numbers.
The program claims to provide anonymity (callers are given a code number instead of being asked for their name and calls are not traced or recorded) and to pay rewards when their information leads to an arrest and/or conviction. However, in a 2003 California death penalty case, a defendant had called the tip line himself. The managers of a tip hotline guaranteeing anonymity had taped calls; such tapes were used as evidence against the defendant and challenged by his attorney.
- "Profile". 31 July 2016.
- MacAleese, Greg (2016-07-12). Crime Stoppers: The Inside Story. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. ISBN 9781533259721.
- Millar, Cal (2014-08-07). What Is Crime Stoppers. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. ISBN 9781500645939.
- "Crime Stoppers USA - Welcome". Crime Stoppers USA. Crime Stoppers USA. February 10, 2010. Retrieved 2010-02-19.
- "People v. Maury (2003) 30 Cal.4th 342 [133 Cal.Rptr.2d 561, 68 P.3d 1] at p. 385 & fn. 10. as cited in Kight v. CashCall, Inc., 200 Cal. App. 4th 1377 - Cal: Court of Appeal, 4th Appellate Dist".