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In 1979, the National Crime Prevention Council
and the Ad Council introduced Americans to a character, who
would quickly become a powerful symbol of the fight against
crime -- McGruff the Crime Dog. At the time, research indicated
that feelings of apathy, fear, and the inevitability of crime
prevented the public from addressing rising crime rates. McGruff
and his now familiar slogan, "Take a bite out of crime,"
helped to change that.
The popular public service advertisements (PSAs) were designed
to raise awareness among Americans that every citizen has
the ability to prevent or at least to reduce crime. Additionally,
the spots were developed to empower citizens with an individual
sense of responsibility for preventing crime. In just the
first months of the campaign, more than 300,000 copies of
the booklet, "Got a minute? You could stop a crime,"
were requested, and by 1981, more than one million copies
were distributed as a direct result of the advertising, which
encouraged the public to perform simple steps such as locking
doors and joining with neighbors to create neighborhood watch
In 1982, burglary rates in major U.S. cities, including Detroit,
Seattle and Los Angeles dropped by as much as 50% in the areas
with active crime prevention programs. Timely telephone calls
from members of these crime prevention groups were credited
by law enforcement authorities with reducing residential burglaries
on suburban blocks and in urban apartment buildings. By 1986,
a reported 19 million citizens participated in crime prevention
activities with block watch groups having been established
in 100,000 neighborhoods.
A study conducted for the National Institute of Justice in
1983, indicated that more than half of all adults in the United
States had seen or heard at least one of the campaign's PSAs.
Approximately half of those who saw the advertising reported
that they felt more responsible for preventing crime than
they had prior to seeing the PSAs. In addition, one-fourth
of those who saw the messages took some sort of preventative
action as a direct result of the campaign.
As the PSAs spurred the public to take action, the reduction
in property crimes continued. A 1984 Justice Department's
Crime Survey noted that household burglaries and theft decreased
dramatically, hitting their lowest level in the 12-year history
of the survey. Figures released by the FBI in that same year
showed a 7% drop in serious crimes, the second significant
decline in two years and the largest decline since 1960. Both
the Attorney General of the United States and the Director
of the FBI attributed the decline in part to "greater
citizen involvement" - the major theme of the campaign.
And furthermore, significant changes in behavior were reported
in six of the seven crime prevention activities that were
specifically recommended by the advertising.
In 1985, the Crime Prevention campaign shifted its focus
to the tragedy of the 20,000 kids who disappear in the country
yearly. The new PSAs urged parents to educate children about
the ways they can protect themselves against crime and kidnapping.
A 1987 market research study showed that nine out of 10 teens
and adults taking crime prevention measures trusted McGruff,
and an astonishing 97% of children said they tried to do what
McGruff told them to do. Having achieved such astounding success,
NCPC altered its focus yet again. The message of the new PSAs
was drug abuse prevention and the ads featured the theme "Users
are Losers" and once again McGruff.
McGruff's nephew Scruff first appeared in 1992 in a separate
campaign targeted toward children, between the ages of five
and nine. Calls to the campaigns toll-free number exceeded
50,000 calls in just 10 months. A children's activity book
featuring Scruff was made available to callers beginning in
August of 1993 and by 1995, more than 375,000 copies of the
book were mailed. By 1998, the number of activity books distributed
had reached one million.
In 2001, the campaign began to concentrate on teens. Research
indicated that nine out of 10 teens would volunteer to take
part in programs to help prevent crime and drug abuse if only
they knew how to get involved. In response, the new PSAs encouraged
teens to become active partners in their communities' safety
and encouraged adults to invest time and resources in delinquency
prevention and intervention strategies.
Today, more than 93% of children recognize McGruff, the trench
coat wearing hound dog, as the icon that provides safety tips
for adults and kids. Through the years, the Ad Council's Crime
Prevention campaign has helped teach kids, teens, and adults
about violence and drugs, and the PSAs have inspired all citizens
to get involved in building safer, more caring communities.
||Users Are Losers (1987)
||Quiet Time (Kids)
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