43 year old Darius McCollum was arrested Saturday for the 23rd time for being in a secure area of the Columbus Circle subway station in Manhattan while wearing clothing that resembles that of a transit worker’s uniform. According to WCBS news radio, “Sympathizers claim McCollum’s nocturnal infiltrations stem from Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism typically reflected in obsessive behavior.” McCollum was first arrested in 1981 when he took control of a subway laden with passengers and steered it to the World Trade Center:
Hardly just a youthful prank, it was the first of many forbidden rides. By the mid-1990s, frustrated Transit Authority officials posted thousands of wanted posters in trains and stations so riders could report McCollum sightings. But most riders who ran into him found him simply friendly and helpful.
McCollum was sentenced to three years in prison at Sing Sing Correctional Facility for trying to steal a locomotive after pleading guilty to grand larceny. Says his 82-year-old mother, Elizabeth McCollum, in today’s New York Times:
“With all these kids who are autistic, they slip behind the cracks, but nobody is trying to help him at all,” she said. “I tried when I lived in New York. Every time he was arrested he wasn’t hurting anybody, and nobody could figure out what is his problem.”
She said that sometimes, when he was younger and they were living in Jamaica, Queens, she did not know where he was and people would tell her he was in the subway. “I used to call them and go down there and look for him,” she said.
She said that he would put together model trains and other toys with ease: “We had all kinds of toys, like trains and monorails, and different kinds of things when he was growing up. And he went on to bigger and better things.”
A play and a BBC radio play have been made about him (more at Neurodiversity.com)—-is it right to treat as a criminal or is something else warranted?