ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It was the spring of 1976 when Greg MacAleese, who had just become a detective with the Albuquerque Police Department’s violent crimes unit, sat down during one of his shifts and started typing up some of his random thoughts.
He said eventually he wrote something along the lines of “Why don’t people come forward with information they have about crimes?”
“I started focusing on why we have so much unsolved crime,” he said. “I realized it’s citizens who control the crime rate in any city. We don’t. We just react to it and most crime is solved with their help.”
The next logical question, he said, was how do we get people to help us solve more crimes.
“They were afraid of retaliation or becoming a target of that criminal,” he said. “I thought if we allow them to remain anonymous they could tell us what they knew.”
And so was the beginning of Crime Stoppers, which now exists in every major city in the United States, Canada and countless countries around the world. MacAleese has released a book, co-written by Cal Millar, a former reporter and founding member of Toronto Crime Stoppers.
The program has become an irreplaceable tool in solving crimes for law enforcement officers and according to the book, a major crime is solved every 14 minutes because of Crime Stoppers tips. Police have recovered $2 billion in stolen property, seized $10 billion worth of drugs, and made more than a million arrests.
“The second part of this was there is a lot of apathy,” he said. “I knew money talked out on the street so I wanted to include a reward.”
An independent board of citizens was created to raise money for the rewards. MacAleese said initially he received some resistance in the department, with one of his superiors questioning why people should be paid to do their civic duty.
“I told him ‘You have a point,'” he said. “”But the fact is they aren’t.'”
The third and final component of the program, he said, was partnering with local newspapers and television stations to pass along information about unsolved crimes to the public.
Jim Busse was a captain with the police department when MacAleese started floating around the idea of the program. He said Albuquerque was still a “sleepy little town” in many ways but had its share of big-city crime. He said there was some cynicism about the program but that all disappeared when crimes started getting solved.
“It took off very quickly,” he said. “Not everybody believed it would work. We had seen many programs come and go only to be reinstated with a new administration.”
A crime in July 1976 would give MacAleese the opportunity to launch his program and test its merit. Michael Carmen was a 20-year-old college student working at a gas station in the Southeast Heights in the early morning hours of July 25.
Armed robbers shot Carmen at close range with a .12-gauge shotgun. MacAleese believed they were worried that Carmen could identify them so he was killed to be eliminated as a witness.
But initially the police had no leads. The department put together a re-enactment of the crime that KOAT broadcast on Sept. 8, 1976. The clip included a hotline number with a promise that all tipsters would stay anonymous.
“The phone started ringing immediately,” he said. “The second call was about a gang rape that happened a month before that we hadn’t been able to solve.”
The caller turned out to be a relative of one of the offenders and the information he gave led to the arrest of the three assailants, who had offered the young woman a ride after her car broke down in Downtown Albuquerque.
The sixth call, MacAleese said, broke open the Carmen case. A man who happened to live in the area said he recognized the car used in the crime and it belonged to a man in the neighborhood. Officers asked him to call back with an address.
A few hours later he did and after some surveillance police arrested Thomas Charles Boone and Lawrence Edward Tate. Boone was acquitted but Tate was found guilty and sentenced to prison for killing Carmen.
MacAleese, 69, now lives in the Cagayan de Oro in the Philippines, where he is an associate pastor. A widower, he traveled there years ago and met the woman who would become his second wife. He and his second wife have two sons, 5 and 7 years old.
“What happened when my wife told me she was pregnant is that I realized it was a tremendous blessing,” he said. “I made a deal with God, even though that’s not what you are supposed to do, and I said ‘If you provide me with a healthy baby, I’m yours.'”
His first son was healthy and MacAleese dedicated himself to helping others by becoming a pastor.
He came to Albuquerque in September to attend a Crime Stoppers conference and visit with friends.
APD, he said, solved almost 300 crimes the first year with the help of Crime Stoppers tipsters. Word spread and other police departments across the state and the country started establishing similar programs.
“You know we had success instantly,” he said. “They (other officers) would joke about my Crime Stoppers program but after that first broadcast, the guys started coming forward to me with their unsolved cases.”