Sunday, July 8, 2012

Copper: New Crime Show on BBC America

Copper Takes Place in New York City's Five Points

BBC America's new crime drama starts this August 2012

By: Joseph Giacalone

Copper, a new TV drama from BBC America takes place in 1860s New York City in an area that was known as Five Points. The show trailer appears at the end of the article. Don't miss it!

The original area known as the “Five Points” was located at the intersection of Orange, Cross, Anthony, Little Water and Mulberry Streets. Today it is know as Columbus Park and the streets are named Baxter, Bayard, Park, Worth, Mulberry Streets. The streets no longer intersect nor do they carry the same reputation.  The park that used to house some of the worst gangs ever known to New York City in the 1800’s, now offers solitude and a picnic area. Assistant District Attorneys from the Criminal and Federal Court Houses around the corner use the park quite often. The park is also a stones throw from the NYPD’s Headquarters located at One Police Plaza. The area had one building, the Old Brewery that boasted a murder a day for fifteen years. What New York City needed then was Rudy Giuliani and the Police Department’s CompStat meetings.

The Five Points had many gangs, the Plug Uglies, Dead Rabbits, Whyos, Atlantic Guards, Shirt Tails, Bowery Boys and the Roach Guards. Coincidentally, you can find a few nightspots in lower Manhattan that took some of the gang’s names as well as a popular television show entitled the Bowery Boys. The gangs consisted mainly of pickpockets, robbers and murderers of Irish descent, of which the Dead Rabbits were the worst. They started a riot on July 4, 1857 that the New York State Militia had to quell. This paved over swamp also helped spawn some of the most infamous gangsters including, Alphonse Capone, Johhny Torrio, Jacob “Little Augie” Orgen and Salvatore Lucania, better know as Lucky Luciano. 

Remember, a murder a day, helps keep the tourists away!

You can follow the show on Twitter: @CopperTV


  1. Some say "copper" is another name for the police because New York officers used to wear copper badges.

  2. Hi Audrey,
    You are absolutetly correct! Thanks for taking the time and posting the answer.

  3. I thought it was because they had copper buttons on their jackets and not copper badges. Have you heard this idea? can you explain.

  4. According to NYC history the term was coined there in the 1840s. It was widely used by the gangs in the Five Points, hence the TV referring to Copper in NYC's Five Points. I am trying to locate the exact reference. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hey Joe: You might remember that every old gangster movie referred to the police as Coppers. They didn't even use the word "cops" back in those days, which is short for coppers. So those acronym theories in this thread fall a little short. Besides, I don't think people used acronyms in the 19th century, let alone 18th or even 17th. The way I heard it is the way that you heard it. In fact, when I hear Cagney in "White Heat" saying, "A copper. Howdoya like dat boys, a copper...and I was gonna split fifty fifty with a copper..." I can imagine members of those Irish Gangs saying, "A copper. Hear dat boys. Me smell ye copper a mile away."

  5. Great historical context of 1860's New York. I think it's great that a show focusing on the five points and the early New York gangs is coming to television. It is definitely a welcome change from the police shows that take place in contemporary America. This looks to be very promising. It would be interesting to see the antiquated police procedures used during that era.

  6. Hi Ricardo,
    Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. One thing about the "old" time police department is that very little was ever written on paper. It is not like today with computers, IPads and other electronic devices. Remember, the cops had to get out of the car and talk on a phone, portable radios didn't exist!

  7. According to:

    The word "cop" is an old Anglo-Saxon verb for catch, grab or capture, deriving from a noun "cop" dating back at least to the 1100s. Some sources say this word related to the Dutch word kapen, with a similar meaning. The earliest written documentation of the form "cop" as a verb in English dates to 1704.

    A new noun form developed form this verb, giving us "copper." This form "copper" thus was the noun for "one who cops." Some sources document the use of the verb "cop" used with the meaning "arrest" in 1844, and suggests this was the source of the specific use of "cop" to refer to a law officer.

    The term "copper" was originally used in England as a slang word for a police officer. This term was used, however, as a term of abuse by criminals, especially petty street criminals. It was considered highly derogatory by the police themselves. It was made illegal in England to use this term for a police officer, because it was so derogatory.

    The term became associated with the metal copper after that law was passed, when those hoods who wanted to abuse an officer would carry a small piece of copper metal in the palm of their hand, then flash it at the policeman. This usage of "copper" got shortened to "cop." The first documented use of the term copper for a police officer is in 1846. The Oxford English Dictionary documents this usage. Most sources report that the first documented use of the short form cop as applied to a police officer is in 1859. Snopes finds that the term "copper" was used in London for police by 1846.

  8. Thank you Maggiemay for the information and references. I hope you enjoyed the site and come back for a vist.

  9. Another group of OUTLAWS! Just what I need to get me back on track...said the K-9. The K-9 had spent too much time with his masters that were good, eating fine foods, sitting at the table with the guys, laughing at the fun jokes, and then the K-9 got a COLD wind that COLD CASES were stacked up-against-the-walls - so just another show called Copper - but wait till SILVER walks in the door!