McGruff the Crime Dog is an anthropomorphic cartoon bloodhound created (by the Ad Council) for the National Crime Prevention Council for use by American police in building crime awareness among children. He debuted in July 1980. The character was created by John Young. The motto "Take a Bite out of Crime" was invented by John M. Keil (born in Rochester, New York), who also did McGruff's voice for many years. After two years on the air, a nationwide contest was opened to name the character. The most common entry was "Sherlock Bones". Other entries included "J. Edgar Dog", "Sarg-dog", and "Keystone Kop Dog". The winner, McGruff the Crime Dog, was submitted by a New Orleans police officer. In some of McGruff's advertisements, he appears with his nephew "Scruff McGruff".
McGruff reaches kids through commercials, songs and booklets from the National Crime Prevention Council, talking about drugs, bullying, safety and the importance of staying in school. Recently, McGruff has appeared in commercials addressing identity theft. The character is often used with his motto "Take a bite out of crime!" He also reaches kids through personal appearances as both puppets (often used in classrooms) and costumes worn by police officers nationwide.
In 2005, a new identity theft warning campaign was launched in honor of his 25th birthday.
It was announced that when Keil retires, he will be succeeded by Sgt. Steve Parker, a sheriff's deputy from Burlington, Iowa. As of mid-2006, this changeover has not been announced officially; Parker does fill in for Keil on occasion presently.
Steve Parker was in Utah in early February 2008 recording songs sung by McGruff for Robotronics Inc., the exclusive maker of McGruff costumes, robots and puppets.
A McGruff House is a designated house bearing a McGruff logo indicating that it is a safe refuge for children who feel they are in danger. The first McGruff House was opened in Utah in 1982, and there are presently about 700 McGruff House programs throughout the United States. The program is similar to one in the 1970s in which a picture of a red hand was placed in the window of neighborhood houses that provided refuge.
Similarly, there is a program whereby public utility and government work trucks can display a decal identifying the occupant as someone who can be approached if a child feels that they are in danger, or lost, or otherwise distraught.