When introduced in the nineteenth century, railroads were one of humankind's most transformational technologies. Like similar transformations such as the printing press and the automobile, railroads did more than advance technology. They fundamentally altered the entire social and cultural fabric, including basic relationships between people and time, distance, geography, class, and gender. Railroads also introduced new types of crime and criminal organization to the nineteenth-century West, and indeed to the entire nation and globe. These criminal activities quickly spread across wide geographic expanses. Railroads and society at large responded by altering the measures of social control through new forms of law enforcement, only one of which was the creation of private railroad-company police forces. In our own era, similar revolutionary information and communications technologies erupted upon a cultural and institutional world woefully unprepared to deal with them. As was true for nineteenth-century railroading, the results today have been new, ever-evolving forms of crime that plague individuals, companies, institutions, and governments, while baffling ill-equipped law enforcement agencies. The internet spammers, hackers, phishers, stalkers, swindlers, pedophiles, money launderers, identity thieves, election fixers, and cyberterrorists of today share a lineage with the railroad pickpockets, arsonists, ticket forgers, train robbers and wreckers, and hatchet-wielding hoboes of yesterday. Examining the railroads' transformation of crime and violence can shed light on today's tribulations with information technology, as well as on possible ways to deal with them.

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