Convicted Train Thief, Alleged Bus Thief Arrested for 27th Time

Convicted Train Thief, Alleged Bus Thief Arrested for 27th Time
(AP Graphic)

NEW YORK (CBS/AP) Police arrested the infamous New York City transit imposter Darius McCollum for the 27th time Tuesday.

McCollum, 45, has been known over the years for his affinity for locomotives, but this time he seems to have opted for a bit variety.

Instead of being nabbed on the iron horse, McCollum was arrested by law enforcement officials when he was stopped for driving an empty New York Trailways bus, according to authorities.

The bus was reportedly stolen from a maintenance facility in Hoboken, N.J. It was located using GPS in New York, where police stopped it around 9:15 a.m. on an entrance ramp to the Van Wyck Expressway, which connects Queens and the Bronx.

According to the New York Police Department, the keys were already in the ignition when McCollum walked into the facility, and he simply got on the bus and drove away. McCollum told police that he drove to John F. Kennedy International Airport and around Queens. He didn't pick up any passengers, and he was not wearing a uniform, say police.

Over the years McCollum has donned Metropolitan Transportation Authority uniforms, happily collected fares, cleared trash from tracks and has even put out underground fires. His first run-in with the law came at the ripe age of 15 when he was arrested for commandeering a subway train full of passengers to the World Trade Center.

Elizabeth McCollum, his mother, claims her son is autistic and doesn't mean to harm anyone. She moved to North Carolina 20 years ago with her only son, but McCollum would pick up and leave because he missed the trains.

By the mid-1990s Elizabeth's locomotive-loving son had built quite a reputation. Frustrated transit officials posted thousands of wanted posters of McCollum in trains and stations so riders could notify authorities if they saw him. But instead of turning him in, riders found McCollum to be friendly and helpful.

Some medical experts believe he suffers from Asperger's syndrome, a mental condition on the autism spectrum characterized by obsessive and anti-social behavior. McCollum has never been diagnosed.

His mother said by the time he was 8-years-old he memorized the New York City subway system, by far the largest in the country, and could direct a person to any point on it without the help of a map or guide.

She has asked the MTA numerous times to give her son a job or an internship, but the agency refused.

"What he needs is a break," she said. "He needs help. He is an exceptional kid, but he's never been given a chance to use his gifts. It's sad."

According to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, McCollum was expected to be arraigned Wednesday on a charge of criminal possession of stolen property.