Like its forerunner Police 5, Crimewatch (originally Crimewatch UK) was designed to appeal to the public for their help in unsolved cases of crime where suspects or their whereabouts are unknown. The format for this once-monthly long-running programme, originally scheduled for just three editions, was based on a series from Germany - Aktenzeichen XY...Ungelost (File Reference XY...Unsolved). Unlike Police 5, which mainly used photofit or pictures of stolen goods, Crimewatch made use of reconstructions of crimes using actors. They were useful in solving numerous crimes during the show's run. (In October 2017, the BBC announced that the main Crimewatch series had been axed, citing declining viewership. The daytime spin-off series Crimewatch Roadshow would continue to air.)
In each programme there were 3 - 4 reconstructions, all made taking time and meticulous effort to present them as close to the known events as possible. Also included as a CCTV section where images are shown in the hope that someone watching would recognise one of the criminals, Wanted Faces in which close-up photos of wanted suspects were shown along with their aliases and their potential whereabouts, and like Police 5, featured items in the Treasure Trove that had been stolen and recovered by the police. Often those items were very high value and many people were reunited with possessions that they had believed they would never see again. A number of high profile cases were also shown such as the Jamie Bulger murder, the disappearance of Suzy Lamplugh, the murder of Sarah Payne, and the disappearance of Claudia Lawrence.
During the programme the public were able to call in with information that they might have about any of the crimes featured in that month's edition. The response from the public was staggering and hundreds of cases were solved thanks to Crimewatch's involvement. At its launch there was scepticism from many forces who did not want to be associated with a TV programme. However, thanks to the amazing reaction from the public all 43 forces across the country were featured between 1984 and 2017. By the end of 2013 - 53 rapists, 57 murderers and 18 paedophiles had been caught thanks to appeals made on the programme. It's clear to see why both the various police forces and the BBC were so keen to continue broadcasting Crimewatch. Figures showed that each day, Crimewatch receive 4-5 requests for appeals to be featured due to its amazing success rate where 1 out of 3 appeals shown resulted in an arrest and 1 in 5 lead to a person being convicted of the crime.
The first presenters of Crimewatch UK were Sue Cook and Nick Ross, Sue Cook left the series in 1995 to be replaced by Jill Dando (who was murdered and became the subject of an appeal herself when the reconstruction of her last hours was shown on the programme). Dando was succeeded by Fiona Bruce. Nick Ross and Fiona Bruce left in 2007 and replaced by Matthew Amroliwala, Kirtsy Young and Martin Bayfield. Police officers were also involved bringing extra gravitas to the programme.
There have been several spin-off programmes such as the Crimewatch Roadshow which went around the country and Crimewatch: Solved which is an update featuring some of the success cases as a result of appeals made on the series. These shows highlight just how valuable Crimewatch is in helping to bring criminals to justice. While Crimewatch has a lot of fans across the country some people find that it has increased their fear of crime. The programme had been criticised for showing some crimes that are particularly disturbing, even though the makers of Crimewatch claimed they don't show anything gratuitous.
The information provided in the reconstructions was all relevant and pitched to get the maximum response by the public and was often instrumental in helping to jog the memory on certain events and places. Mindful of the effect the programme could have on viewers the standard closing line, delivered by one of the presenters had always been; "Don't have nightmares. Do sleep well."
Published on December 5th, 2018. Written by Joanne MacRae (2014 - updated 2018) for Television Heaven.