When the stolen Greyhound bus report came in to New York City police at about 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, it didn’t take a detective to figure out what was going on. The cops knew right away — Darius McCollum was back, and he was at it again.
He’s now 50-years-old, but police in New York have been acquainted with McCollum since 1981, when at the age of 15, the most fanatical and some might argue, only true fan of New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority was arrested after — according to a New York Times story from that year — he commandeered a subway train on the city’s E line, and drove it all the way from 34th Street to the World Trade Center station as the motorman, who later claimed to have fallen “violently ill,” looked on.
When police checked into who this teenager was and why he stole the subway train, they found that McCollum at least knew where he was going. At the age of eight, he memorized the whole New York City transit map, and would spend most of his free time “hanging out” in the train yards near his home in Jamaica, Queens.
The teenage McCollum was arrested and declared a juvenile delinquent, but the city’s transit authorities certainly had not heard the end of McCollum. Before taking the stolen Greyhound bus for a little jaunt through Brooklyn on Wednesday — nearly 35 years after his first arrest for transit theft — McCollum was arrested a reported 29 times for crimes that stemmed from his obsession with the city’s mass transportation system.
Watch a video profile of Darius McCollum above, on this page.
McCollum has even gone to elaborate lengths to forge credentials to pass himself off an MTA official, at one point infiltrating the agency’s headquarters on 57th Street in Manhattan. When McCollum was busted on Wednesday, he was carrying more phony transit credentials.
According to his mother, Darius McCollum is autistic. But his attorney has described him as suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome, a developmental disorder considered to be on what psychologists call the autism spectrum, and which is linked to various forms of social maladjustment and eccentric or obsessive behaviors.
That description would certainly fit McCollum’s singleminded fixation on the transit system, a fixation which has reportedly led to his spending about one third of his life behind bars.
But until Wednesday when he was caught with the stolen Greyhound bus, his last arrest came in 2010 when he stole a Trailways bus in Hoboken, New Jersey, and drove it to JFK International Airport in Queens.
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McCollum has become something of a weirdly popular figure in New York City, and was even the subject of an 8,000-word profile in Harper’s Magazine back in 2002 — a story entitled, “The Boy Who Loved Transit.”
According to the Harper’s article, the train ride that led to his initial arrest at age 15 was far from the first time McCollum had somehow managed to commandeer a New York subway train. It was simply the first time he’d been caught. In fact, he had illegally driven subway trains “dozens” of times as a youth before he ever got nabbed for it.
After a bust in 1990, he told the MTA’s transit police that he had stoled 13 buses that year alone, and that he committed the unusual crimes for no reason other than “the fun of it.”
Once he was done with the buses, he would park them near bus depots where they could be easily recovered, he told police.
“I love the atmosphere, I love the lights, I love the signals,” McCollum told a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, who wrote about him in 2013. “I love the fact that it’s moving all the time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There’s nothing negative I can say about the transit system.”
But perhaps most troubling, the stolen Greyhound bus is apparently not enough for Darius McCollum. When he was arrested on Wednesday, he reportedly told detectives, “I’m stealing a plane next.”
[Featured Photo By New York City Police Department]