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Train Gangs Today: Another Threat to Law Enforcement

NCJ Number
Law and Order Volume: 46 Issue: 10 Dated: October 1998 Pages: 117-120
C Howard; T Burke
Date Published
4 pages
This article profiles the leading train gang, the Freight Train Riders of America (FTRA), which was established in 1984 by a group of ex-Vietnam veterans in Montana who rode the rails in the western part of the United States.
These veterans began riding freight trains after being unable to make a transition back to civilian society. There are three main factions of the FTRA; they are distinguished by geographical rails and bandanna color. "Low riders" ride the rails in the south, from Texas to California, and wear red bandannas around the neck. "Mid-riders" ride the rails across the Midwest and wear blue bandannas; and "high riders" ride the rails from Minnesota to Northern California, wearing black bandannas. FTRA members are predators who will do whatever it takes to survive and do not mind killing people in the process. FTRA members pose a threat to other transients, local communities, rail officers, and other law enforcement officers who have railways in their jurisdiction. Some members have purchased cars and leased homes in the areas they frequent, thus posing a danger to local citizens. Most FTRA members carry knives; some also carry large sticks, axe handles, or less often, a gun. These weapons are used to threaten and bludgeon their victims. FTRA members are highly mobile and quickly leave the scenes of their crimes. Traveling by rail, they can be miles away by the time police officers obtain information on suspects. Police must be aware and alert regarding this newest gang threat; law enforcement agencies must communicate with one another and cooperate to counter the FTRA's increasing criminal activity.


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