Documentary on One

Weapon of Choice

The 1970s was a dangerous time for police officers working in Harlem's homicide unit as violent crimes and murders spiked in New York City. Faced with these armed and dangerous criminals what type of person enters the New York police force? (1978)

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Weapon of Choice

With the crime rates soaring in New York City during the 1970s policing the streets of Harlem was no easy task for officers, especially for detectives investigating violent crimes which were widespread due to an influx of drugs into the city. In late March 1978, the 4th Homicide Squad Manhattan of the NYPD precinct notice board read 25 homicides to date - a reasonable number for this time of year. 

Sergeant Noel Biggins, from Tuam in Co.Galway, knows life in New York City like the back of his hand, especially life as it is given and taken on the streets of Harlem. The main causes of violent deaths can be attributed to the high concentration of drugs, and a high number of people living off welfare and in extreme poverty. Most of the homicides in this precinct revolve around disputes, either between husband and wife, drugs, or money. The gun is the weapon of choice and even though New York has some of the strictest gun laws in the country the criminals can easily travel across state lines and purchase a hand gun.

It takes a certain type of person to become a homicide detective in New York City as you are faced with violent and gruesome crime scenes that you must emotionally detach yourself from in order to act professionally and investigate the crime. This is a lonely profession and a lot of officers socialise with each other and rarely with people outside the force. A high percent of officers turn to the bottle to cope with the harsh realities of this line of work and the pressures and unsociable hours means that a lot of marriages end in divorce. 

With the added stress of being killed in the line of duty what attracts people to this profession? 

Produced by Dick Warner

( First broadcast in 1978 ) 

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