I never thought I’d be writing a post about a subject that is less than pleasant but that’s exactly what I’m about to do; the grim topic of crime is central to this post. Crime reconstruction programs bring back childhood memories – of the scary variety!
My contribution to the fight against crime is playing armchair detective when Crimewatch broadcasts its monthly appeals. True, I haven’t helped to solve anything yet but you never know when I might just do so. Incidentally, I realised today that I’ve been watching crime reconstructions shows from a very young age. Either I’ve missed my calling to work in forensics or I was just a very weird kid! Crimewatch UK, Police 5, Crimestoppers – I can’t really explain how or why… it’s just something that I happened to stumble across especially as the latter two aired pre-watershed.
It was Crimestoppers which infiltrated my thoughts this afternoon (again, not sure why.) I don’t watch much television these days but I know that Crimestoppers is no longer shown – at least not in the UK. But I remember it very well from the 1980s and ’90s when televised appeals used to be broadcast in the HTV, Thames, Yorkshire and Tyne Tees regions. Unlike Crimewatch which is an actual program and lasts for about an hour, Crimestoppers lasted around a minute and would be shown during commercial breaks. They would feature one single appeal (there is only so much you can do in a minute!) using either a reconstruction or CCTV footage in order to solve a case. An e-fit and written description of the perpetrator would be shown towards the end of the appeal, along with the Crimestoppers number and the assurance that callers were able to give information anonymously and could given earn a reward.
These television appeals were brought by Crimestoppers, an independent charity first established in New Mexico in 1975, whose aim is to help the law track down criminals and solve crimes. Information given by anonymous callers would then be passed on to the police. Callers are also likely to receive a reward if their call results in an arrest. The UK branch of the charity first got under way in 1983 in Norfolk. Crimestoppers in the UK has had much success since 1988 when it first began televising appeals, with over 122,000 arrests and the recovery of £126,000,000 worth of stolen goods.
I always felt quite spooked after watching Crimestoppers. I was at an age where I thought Walt Disney ruled the world and everything in it. Crime reconstruction features hit home that the world is not always a nice and safe place. Quite a disturbing realisation for one so young. Furthermore, there were elements of Crimestoppers which I found quite eerie: it would pop up between programs without any warning; the creepy intro with flashing mouth montage; frightening reconstructions complete with narration in a dead-pan voice, and chilling e-fits.
It’s good to know that I’m not the only one who was spooked by Crimestoppers as others who remember the crime appeals said that they were freaked out by them too. It does make me wonder – whatever did we expose ourselves to? I feel quite sorry for my poor parents as I was already quite afraid of the dark – can you imagine what it must have been like getting me to sleep after I’d seen a Crimestoppers appeal! Someone said that now they’re an adult they do wonder why it scared them so much. Can’t say I agree with them. I’m well into adulthood and it still freaks me out! It was extremely hard-hitting and it’s even mentioned on Wikipedia, that the appeals frightened young children. However, the element of shock factor might have been beneficial in getting people to take notice of these appeals and prompt the public into phoning in if they had any relevant information.
It is ironic that as we live in an age where we don’t need statistics to tell us that the crime rate has soared, Crimestoppers no longer broadcast appeals. Because it is so truly chilling, I think it would act as the perfect crime deterrent: Criminals would give up their lives of crime to avoid ending up on the show and seeing unflattering e-fits of themselves, and kids of today would experience the same fear we did and never do anything bad in their lives!
I was trying to track down the intro so that you could see how scary it was but then I realised that I wouldn’t want something as eerie as that on Nostalgia Pie. Trust me – it’s the stuff nightmares are made of!