Train Robbery: A Retrospective Look at an Obsolete Crime

Rick Ruddell, Scott Decker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


There has been recent interest in applying contemporary criminological theories to better understand historical criminal behavior and events. Retrospective studies—much like case studies—can be a useful methodology to help us understand the justice system responses to crime and in particular what strategies “worked” or were ineffective. This study examined 241 train robberies that occurred between 1866 and 1930 and found that routine activities theory can explain the origins, growth, and eradication of this violent and often costly crime. Reducing offender motivation and target attractiveness as well as increasing capable guardianship of shipments of attractive goods explains the eradication of this form of crime. Implications for a criminology of public transportation are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)333-348
Number of pages16
JournalCriminal Justice Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017


  • criminology of transportation
  • historical crime
  • robbery
  • routine activities theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law


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