Transit Impersonator Needs Help, Say Psychs – QNS.com

Transit Impersonator Needs Help, Say Psychs

Darius McCollum has spent more than a third of his life in prison for pursuing a passion that neither he nor law officers can control.
Since his days as a high school freshman in Queens, McCollum has been impersonating an MTA transit worker, with an often remarkable degree of success. He has fooled the public, transit workers and even the police into believing he is an employee of New York City Transit, and to date, he has been arrested more than 20 times.
Last week, wearing a transit-issue safety vest, McCollum was arrested at the Long Island Rail Road yard in Jamaica. In his pocket he carried the key that would have started an M-7 locomotive. His latest impersonation attempt comes just two months after being released from jail on a parole violation.
To most law officers, McCollum is a dangerous crank. But to the psychologists who have studied his case and who are growing increasingly anxious about his fate McCollum suffers from a form of autism known as Aspergers Syndrome. Individuals with Aspergers are capable of remarkably original ideas, but they often lack common sense although their intelligence is often well above average. Psychologists say McCollum needs treatment, but to date he has simply received jail time.
"This man needs help," says Lori Shery, who knows McCollum and runs the New Jersey-based Asperger Syndrome Education Network. "The system doesnt know what to do with him. Hes more than drawn to trains; hes completely obsessed with them. He truly believes that they are not being driven properly, or properly maintained. He had his consultants cards made because he truly believes he is a consultant. He feels the transit system is neither; properly maintained or run."
In McCollums case Sheri is clear about what needs to happen: "This man needs to be in an in-patient secure facility with professional care. I am appalled by the suggestion that we are somehow coddling him, or encouraging his behavior by suggesting that he has a serious condition. The MTA and law enforcement are understandably embarrassed by him but they want a quick end to this situation and my fear is that theyll just imprison him again without a thought to his real needs."
A phone call McCollum recently made to Sheri illustrated to her just how serious his condition is. "He called me from prison and he said, "You know, this place is just not well-maintained. Its not a good prison." The man is incarcerated and yet his main concern is how inefficient the place is? He lacks the capacity to understand the seriousness of his situation. How much more proof do you need?"
McCollum was released on bail set at $250,000. If convicted he faces up to 15 years in prison. He is being represented by attorney Steven C. Jackson.

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