In the summer of 1976 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a teenage young man was working in a gas station to make extra money for college. One evening two men barged into the station, one holding a shotgun. They demanded money from the register. The young attendant apparently did not act fast enough and was shot at close range. He died on the floor of the gas station.
The police detective in charge of the case, Greg MacAleese, followed many leads over several weeks; all leading to dead ends. Finally, he and a local television news reporter came up with a novel idea. They filmed a reenactment of the crime and played it on the news on a Friday evening. They had come up with some donated money for a reward. Viewers were given the number to the detective’s phone and told they could call it anonymously if they had information. They were also told the reward would be paid in cash upon arrest – not conviction.
A caller phoned who had been in the area the night of the robbery. They had seen a vehicle that appeared suspicious and had written down the license number. The tip led to the arrest of two hardened criminals who were later tried and convicted in the murder. Something unexpected also happened the night of the telecast. Besides the call about the murder, Detective MacAlease received a score of calls from people who did not want to be identified but had information about other crimes. The veteran officer realized he had hit upon a gold mine.
Crime Stoppers was born.
In order to fund rewards and keep the system out of the control of police, a civilian volunteer board of directors was formed. It was their job to oversee the program and to raise funds. They became a 501.c.3. nonprofit and other cities were soon to follow. A set of standardized bylaws was adopted and the spread of the program was so rapid that a nationwide Crime Stoppers association was established. In 1986 the Internal Revenue Service gave Crime Stoppers exemptions from reporting payment to informants as long as anonymity was guaranteed.
The program spread to many cities in Canada and Crime Stoppers International was formed to insure standardized practices in all programs. Today Crime Stoppers U.S.A. is in every state in America and Crime Stoppers International covers almost 30 other nations from the United Kingdom to the Palau Islands and from Australia to Poland. Somewhere in the world more than two crimes are solved every minute thanks to calls to Crime Stoppers Hotlines.
Our local program, the Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers 816-474-TIPS Hotline, was the 295th program to join. That was in 1982.
Each year representatives from Crime Stoppers programs all over the world gather to discuss new ideas, old secrets of success, and innovations in the law enforcement field. Individual programs are awarded for their success.
For the last seven years, our program has consistently been ranked in the top three for arrests and cases cleared for programs covering populations of over one million. This is in competition with the largest cities worldwide that have Crime Stoppers programs.
This success is due to the cooperation of our local media, the professionalism of the investigators that follow up tips, and most importantly – the men and women who pick up that ringing phone and answer, “TIPS Hotline.”
K.C. Crime Stoppers Highlights
1982 – The hotline is opened as a program of the Kansas City Crime Commission – It’s first year saw 30 tips taken and 8 cases cleared
1988 – The hotline takes hundreds of tips in several high-profile cases including the Richard Grissom case, the deaths of six KC fire fighters and the Ann Harrison abduction and murder. These tips will eventually help solve each of these.
1990 – The death of an FBI agent in downtown KC is solved from a tip
From 1995 onward, our program becomes a world leading Crime Stoppers program garnering over 40 international awards for its productivity
In 1999, Crime Stoppers International awards two of its three highest individual awards to Kansas City members: Margaret Jones is given the Corli Wagner Memorial Service Award for Lifetime Achievement with Crime Stoppers and Sgt. Craig Sarver is named International Coordinator of the Year.
In 2000 a tip leads to the clearing of the 10,000th case for our program.
In June 2002, 19 year-old Ali Kemp is murdered in a Leawood swimming pool pump house. Over the next 2-½ years our program would take 3,000 tips on the case, two of which would lead to the arrest of the suspect in November 2004.
In late December 2003, John Friedmann, Executive Director of the Truman Sports Complex, was shot and killed while washing his car near the stadiums. A tip led to the arrest of the suspect.
In early 2004, through the help of Roger Kemp, Lamar Advertising began a partnership with our Crime Stoppers program in which, at no cost, they display billboards bearing photos of wanted homicide suspects. As of the end of January 2007, of 15 fugitives shown, eleven were caught due to the signs.
By the end of 2006, our program had taken over 96,000 tips that had resulted in more than 8,200 arrests and the clearance of nearly 20,000 cases or warrants. More than $21 million in drugs and property had been recovered from our tips, including over $1 million just in 2006. Total rewards paid out have been just over $880,000 in non-taxpayer funds. That’s about $107 for each arrest.
2012 marked the 30th anniversary year fo the Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers TIPS Hotline. In December of 2013 we received word from the KCPD that one of out TIPS cleared the 600th homicide in our program's history. Sobering to think that we have been involved in the clearance of that many homicides yet glad we are a service to the community and at least assisted in bringing closure to some families who lost loved ones.
Area media play a huge part in our program’s growth and success with more than 20 regularly scheduled weekly media spots in television, radio and print in 2006.
Today our hotline averages the clearing of about 4 cases each and every day on more than 400 tips per month, a far cry from the totals of the first year.
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