Crime Stoppers or Crimestoppers is a program, separate from the emergency telephone number system or other standard methods of contacting police, that allows a member of the community to provide anonymous information about criminal activity. This allows a person to provide crime solving assistance to the authorities without being directly involved in the investigation process. Crime Stopper programs are operated in many communities worldwide.
The authorities, especially the police, sometimes rely on information from the public. Crime Stoppers was developed to combat the public's fear of reprisals, public apathy, and a reluctance to get involved. 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 in which a defendant had called the tip line himself, taped conversations made by the managers of a tip hotline guaranteeing anonymity were used as evidence.
Crime Stoppers first began in Albuquerque, New Mexico during July 1976, which saw the fatal shooting of Michael Carmen while he was working one night at a local filling station. After two weeks the police had no information when out of desperation Detective Greg MacAleese approached the local television station requesting a reconstruction of the crime. The re-enactment offered US$1,000.00 for information leading to the arrest of the killers.
Within 72 hours, a person called in identifying a car leaving the scene at high speed and he had noted its registration. The person calling said that he did not want to get involved so he had not called earlier. Detective MacAleese then realized that fear and apathy were the primary reasons why the public tended not to get involved. So he helped design a system where the public could anonymously provide details of the events. This system focused on stimulating community involvement and participation, taking advantage of every possible media opportunity, especially electronic media, to publicize unsolved crimes; and offering cash rewards for information leading to an arrest and/or conviction.
Since its 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.
Various, similar programs exist in Canada and other countries. 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.
- Crime Stoppers Australia
- Crimestoppers UK
- Crime Stoppers USA
- Crime Stoppers International
- Block Parent Program (Canada)
- Neighborhood watch
- 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.]
- "Crime Stoppers USA - Welcome". Crime Stoppers USA. Crime Stoppers USA. February 10, 2010. Retrieved 2010-02-19.