What to Know
Darius McCollum, 52, has been arrested 30 times for stealing buses and trains in New York City since he was 15
The autistic man is obsessed with buses and trains; he befriended engineers and pilots and started hanging around the subway system as a kid
McCollum is hoping a Brooklyn judge can be convinced he's not a danger to the community and he should be released from jail with support
After more than 30 years impersonating employees and taking subways and buses for joyrides, New York City’s notorious transit thief says he’s officially "retired."
In an exclusive jailhouse interview with the I-Team , 53 year-old Darius McCollum said he is hoping a Brooklyn Judge can be convinced the serial thief is not a danger to the community and should be released with support services.
“I still need help,” he said, “and locking me up and throwing away the key is not the answer.”
McCollum, who has a form of autism, has been obsessed with mass transit since he was a child. He was last arrested in 2015 for stealing an empty Greyhound bus. He has never hurt anyone or caused damage, but because he was a repeat offender, McCollum faced a possible life prison term.
In January, right before his trial, McCollum pleaded not guilty by reason of a mental disease or defect. He was ordered to Kirby Psychiatric Hospital on Wards Island. Kirby has housed some of New York City’s most infamous and violent criminal patients, including the so-called cannibal killer and the Upper East Side butcher.
The Brooklyn DA’s office has repeatedly argued McCollum is dangerously mentally ill and a menace to society.
“I know for a fact I’m not dangerously mentally ill,” said McCollum, adding: “I’ve never had any doctors say I’m dangerous.”
Two psychiatrists with the State Office of Mental Health recently examined McCollum and agreed he is not dangerously mentally ill or mentally ill under the law. The doctors recommended he be released into the community with supervision and services. The DA’s office is fighting that recommendation.
Sally Butler, McCollum’s attorney, argued in court last month that her client had been threatened by patients and staff at Kirby. She requested McCollum be moved back to Rikers for safety reasons and Justice Ruth Shillingford granted that request.
Later this month, Justice Shillingford will hold a hearing on McCollum’s future. Should he be stay in a restrictive mental institution or be moved into a community environment with monitoring?
McCollum promised that if he is released with support services, he won’t be stealing any more trains or buses.
“I’ve done too much as it is. “It’s time to move on. I don’t feel like doing those things because it puts people in jeopardy,” he said. He added, “I don’t have a pension but I’m retired.”