Off the Rails: Documentary on Autistic Train Thief Darius McCollum

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alex
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04 May 2016, 8:16 pm


I sat down with Adam Irving, director of Off the Rails, a gripping documentary about Darius McCollum, the notorious autistic individual who has spent most of his life in prison due to “stealing” subway trains and buses in New York City throughout his entire life. The film features interviews with Darius, his family, and many experts as well as reenactments of Darius illegally driving subway trains (which he started doing at the age of 15).

This tragic but fascinating documentary explores how a harmless special interest turned into a life-changing obsession that resulted in Darius being arrested over 30 times throughout his life.  I ...



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04 May 2016, 8:19 pm

Interesting first read. I'll have to re-read it a few more times to get the full impact. Thanks for posting it.


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04 May 2016, 8:35 pm

Thank you. Based on the interview it seems like a film I would want to see rather then bieng apprehensive about seeing it because I am afraid he would get Aspergers all wrong or just explain the stereotypes yet again.


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04 May 2016, 9:54 pm

Second read-through: Darius and I seem to have some personality traits in common. I'm actually liking this guy. I hope he doesn't do anything heinous (train-jacking is bad enough).


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Yigeren
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04 May 2016, 10:27 pm

I've read of him before. I feel that it's sad that he has to spend so much time locked up. I know that he's technically committing crimes, but he's not hurting anyone.



alex
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05 May 2016, 10:16 am

Yigeren wrote:
I've read of him before. I feel that it's sad that he has to spend so much time locked up. I know that he's technically committing crimes, but he's not hurting anyone.

He's better at driving the subway trains than most of the professional conductors I'd imagine.


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naturalplastic
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05 May 2016, 11:17 am

He shouldnt be punished harshly.

But it sounds like he does need to be confined to an institution- not to be punished- but to keep him from stealing trains again- and to get some kind of psychiatric help.

John Hinckley got that kind of deal after shooting a president. So I dont see why they cant give this guy a "not guilty by reason of insanity" type of deal for this lesser crime as well.

But I guess thats the problem.There may be more legal problems with that than for John Hinckley. Dead pan comic Steven Wright quipped "I got a parking ticket. I plead insanity", and gets laughs because everyone knows that you cant plead insanity for lesser crimes than murder.



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05 May 2016, 11:45 am

No way, autism is not remotly insanity legally or otherwise. We already have the aspie spree shooter stereotype. Making Autism a legal definition of insanity will greatly increase the stereotype. This would make it much harder to debunk this stereotype, after all the law will say it is real. Concurently it will explode the Aspergers as fake disease, just another name for excuse stereotype as Aspies and plenty of NT's wil not get the pubishment they deserve. We do not accept insanity defense for drug addiction and we should not for an Aspergers created addiction.

What he needs besides pysch help is what a lot of Aspies under 21 get, an aide probably full time


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05 May 2016, 12:21 pm

I wish they could have just nipped this in the bud at 15. It's actually quite a hilarious crime and almost kind of sweet in a weird way. But it's kind of ridiculous because for it to be so easy to steal public transportation is beyond me. That is what is really scary.

If I were the transit authority, I would have pulled him in at 15 and tried to reform him by explaining to him that stealing is wrong, given him a punishment of some sort and then once he had completed that, I would have hired him to prepare him to drive trains and buses once he was of a legal age to do so. That would have solved the problem and made everybody happy and he would have a profession and would be able to earn his keep. I can't imagine why no one had the idea to do that. He is not a hardened criminal threatening people's lives. He is just an Autistic person whose special interest got out of control when he was a child. At that time he probably did not even fully understand what he was doing. He could have been taught and then hired as an operator. It makes no sense that they let it come to this.


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05 May 2016, 12:26 pm

This is an extreme example of how intensity of an interest causes a significant impairment in occupational functioning. But luckily this is rare among autism or else many of them would be in prison for their special interests and I am sure there are many autistic people outside of prison than the ones who are inside. It's like he has an addiction to trains and some sort of OCD because he can't stop. It's causing him distress alright because it's cost him his life.


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05 May 2016, 3:05 pm

alex wrote:
Yigeren wrote:
I've read of him before. I feel that it's sad that he has to spend so much time locked up. I know that he's technically committing crimes, but he's not hurting anyone.

He's better at driving the subway trains than most of the professional conductors I'd imagine.


Yes, as he was able to get away with what he was doing without even calling attention to himself. He knew exactly what to do, researched the proper paperwork, got the proper uniforms, and had everything perfect to the last detail.

No one complained about his capabilities. All he did was take over a route for awhile because it was enjoyable to him, then he had to be locked up for years for each opportunity.

skibum wrote:
I wish they could have just nipped this in the bud at 15. It's actually quite a hilarious crime and almost kind of sweet in a weird way. But it's kind of ridiculous because for it to be so easy to steal public transportation is beyond me. That is what is really scary.


I don't think it really is that easy. This guy knew everything. He was totally prepared. He had all of the forged documents that he needed, and the proper uniforms, knew all of the procedures. He's just that good.

I think that they ought to have tried to let him get a job as a legal operator, but I don't think he'd be able to do that with more than one type. He likes all kinds of transportation, and I don't know if just being an operator for one would be satisfying for him. He seems to also like the challenge associated with having to do it in this way.

Very unique person.



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05 May 2016, 6:00 pm

As someone said on another thread we had about this subject "there is no equivalent of AA for addiction to trains for this guy to go to".

One train is too many. And a million trains are not enough! :D



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05 May 2016, 6:04 pm

I live in NYC, and I remember the first time he stole a train--when he was 15 years old.

I truly don't think he should have a felony record as a result. I think that's a miscarriage of justice.

I hope he wasn't traumatized in prison.



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05 May 2016, 8:40 pm

Great interview.

I'll have to go see this film.



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05 May 2016, 9:08 pm

I just read the article. It's very good. I think that it is absolutely disgusting that he is in Rikers with rapists and murderers, career gangbangers and drug dealers who murder people and destroy lives as a way of life. I also think it's disgusting that none of the train and bus operators who would call him in to take their shifts for them so that they could play paid hookey are in prison with him.

This entire situation is absurd. From what I read in the article, the MTA created this problem, not Darius. The first conductor to hand over the controls of a train to a 15 year old civilian was the first problem. It was not for Darius to refuse, he was a child. Then after that all the conductors and drivers who would call him and ask him to take over their shifts to give them a paid day off was the second problem. And the same goes for the ones who would ask him to take over their shifts mid shift.

As far as him taking trains and buses on routes without the involvement of anyone else, that was all him but from what the article said, most of the time seems to be when other drivers asked him to. And technically he never stole one because he would always bring them back on time and intact. And I may be wrong about this but isn't public transportation paid for by the public? I don't think it's a private enterprise. So he was not even borrowing private property if I am correct in this.

It really sucks. Every single driver who asked him to take over a shift should be in Rikers right along side him.


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