U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Holdups, Hobos, and the Homeless: A Brief History of Railroad Police in North America

NCJ Number
Police Studies Volume: 10 Issue: 2 Dated: (Summer 1987) Pages: 90-95
D M Schulz
Date Published
6 pages
Railroad policing in the United States and Canada dates from the 1850's and is currently conducted by police forces that have received police authority from the States in which they work. These forces include more than 4,500 railroad police and more than 10,000 transit police.
The earliest police were hired to protect trains from freight robberies and passengers from pickpockets and other criminals. Vagrants who rode trains without tickets were also a problem. The railroad companies hired individuals distinguished for their strength and skill with guns. The first State law granting police authority to railroad police was enacted in 1865. A Federal law governs the use of railroad police in Canada. Today railroad police protect equipment and facilities as well as the property and physical safety of passengers. Transit police have similar responsibilities. Vandalism is a major part of transit crime. Larceny, assault, and drug law violations are also problems. However, accurate data are difficult to obtain, because transit crime is not recorded as a separate category. A final problem facing transit companies is the fact that their facilities are becoming havens for homeless people, mentally ill people, and other displaced people. Footnotes and 21 references.