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Blue collar crime vs. White collar crime
October 30, 2007

Blue collar crime vs. White collar crime

In criminology, blue-collar crime is any crime committed by an individual from a lower social class as opposed to white-collar crime which is associated with crime committed by individuals of a higher social class. White-collar crime is defined by Edwin Sutherland as a crime committed by an individual of morality and high social position in the track of his occupation." Sutherland was an advocate of Symbolic Interactionism which examines the structure of personal individuality all the way through individual and group interactions. In defining the Differential Association Theory, he believed that criminal behavior was learned from interpersonal interaction with others. White-collar crime consequently overlaps with business crime for the reason that the opportunity for fraud, bribery, insider trading, embezzlement, computer crime, and forgery is more available to white-collar employees. The practical data without a doubt reveal a dual standard flanked by white-collar crimes and supposed street crimes. There are a number of reasons to make clear why white-collar criminals are not more rigorously pursued. By asset of their relative affluence, those accused as white-collar offenders are able to meet the expense of the fees of the best lawyers, and may have friends among senior ranks of the political elite, the judiciary and the law enforcement agencies. These associations time and again not simply ensure constructive treatment on an individual basis; however also facilitate laws to be drafted or resource allocations to be shifted to make sure that such crimes are not distinct or enforced too severely.

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Every potential criminal is limited in the opportunity to commit crime by the "situation" in which he or she occupies in society. If the individual is employed in a low or unskilled job and lives in an inner-city environment, stealing inventory from the workplace may not produce value and not many neighbors may have valuable property to steal. This has significance both for the type of crimes likely to be committed and for law enforcement. Because there are fewer opportunities to use skill, more blue-collar crime may involve the use of force and, because more people are injured, there is a greater chance that the victim will report the crime (contrast white-collar crime where it shades into corporate crime and there is less chance that any crime will be reported).

The types of crime committed are a function of the opportunities available to the potential offender. Thus, those employed in relatively unskilled environments and living in inner-city areas have fewer "situations" to exploit than those who work in "situations" where large financial transactions occur and live in areas where there is relative prosperity. Note that Newman applies the Situational Crime Prevention strategy to e-crime where the opportunities can be more evenly distributed between the classes. Blue-collar crime tends to be more obvious and attract more active police attention (e.g. for crimes such as vandalism or shoplifting which protect property interests), whereas white-collar employees can intermingle legitimate and criminal behavior and be less obvious when committing the crime. Thus, blue-collar crime will more often use physical force whereas white-collar crime will tend to be more technical in nature, e.g. in the manipulation of accountancy or inventory records. In victimology, blue-collar crime attacks more obvious victims who report the crime, whereas in the corporate world, the identification of a victim is less obvious and the issue of reporting is complicated by a culture of commercial confidentiality to protect shareholder value. It is estimated that a great deal of white collar crime is undetected or, if detected, it is not reported.

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In a study ninety-six undergraduate and graduate students participated in a study that examined the effects of subject and defendant race on attributions made for a blue-collar (burglary) and a white-collar (embezzlement) crime. It was predicted that attributions for race stereotypic defendants (e.g., a white embezzler) would be internal (dispositional), that attributions for race nonstereotypic defendants (e.g., a black embezzler) would be external, and that attributions would be related to jail sentences. Subjects were randomly assigned to receive one of four crime descriptions that varied in terms of defendant race (black or white) and type of crime (burglary or embezzlement) committed. Subjects were subsequently asked to recommend jail sentences and to respond to items regarding the probable cause of the defendant's behavior. As predicted, race stereotypic crimes were perceived as being due to internal factors and the hypothesized relationship between attributions and jail sentences received partial support.

Today's con artists are more savvy and sophisticated than ever, engineering everything from slick online scams to complex stock and health care frauds. Here you can learn about the many white-collar crimes we investigate, how to protect yourself from common scams, and what to do if you think you've been victimized. It is a fact that virtually no police effort goes into fighting white-collar crime, and the enforcement of a lot of corporate crimes is put into the hands of government agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency which can act only as watchdogs and point the finger when an abuse is discovered. This more benign treatment is possible because the true cost of white-collar crime, while high in nationally consolidated accounts, is diffused through the bank balances of millions either by way of share value reductions, or nominal increases in taxation, or increases in the cost of insurance. And as it can be difficult to assign blame, e.g. environmental damage may be serious but corporations cannot be sent to jail and, if those senior officers are removed from their positions, it may be more damaging to the organization itself which employs many ordinary and innocent people, and to the shareholders who had no role to play in taking criminal decision. Different public policies are at work and there are differences in the level of public interest, case complexity, and a lack of white-collar related literature, all of which has a significant effect on the way white-collar offenders are sentenced, punished, and perceived by the public.

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The difference is that white-collar crime is probable to be a crime against the business, whereas corporate crime is crime committed by the corporation, although the distinction blurs when the given crime promotes the interests of the corporation and its senior employees because a business entity can only act through the agency of the natural persons whom it employs. The great value of the idea was to redress the imbalance in criminology’s obsession with crimes of the working class. The concept tends to be used very broadly, to include both activities carried out by employees against their employer (embezzlement, pilfering), and activities undertaken by corporate executives on behalf of the corporation itself (such as violation of anti-trust regulations or stock-market rules). Strictly speaking the latter should more accurately be designated corporate crime. Although it does not receive as much publicity as other forms of crime, it costs South Africa and its entire people a lot more as it robs our economy of much needed capital. Every time a company is defrauded of money, they have to recover this from somewhere such as price increases, fewer jobs or even less research and development.

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Security managers have got to find ways to prevent examine and act against white collar crime, an increasing phenomenon that is not likely to disappear in the near future. A conservative estimate places the loss to businesses due to white-collar crime at $40 billion. The increasing incidence of white-collar crime may be attributed to many factors, including lax laws, inadequate emphasis on loss prevention, reluctance to report questionable practices and lack of professional ethics. White-collar crime probably costs U.S. businesses more than $40 billion each year. Statistics are unreliable, however, because many of these crimes are never reported. White-collar crime is also responsible for a significant loss in productivity that is not reflected in the statistics. Disruption is inevitable after a crime has been committed. Therefore, competitiveness is reduced even more than the numbers indicate. Individuals who commit these crimes have the opportunity to earn a comfortable living. If apprehended and convicted, the criminal faces only a small risk of significant prison time, which may be served in a relatively comfortable minimum security prison. This treatment sends a clear message to anyone who has ever thought of committing a white-collar crime: While society recognizes that certain behavior is not honest, it is more acceptable than other types of crime. This is an extremely dangerous lesson, one that sets the stage for the actions that follow. Have these white-collar criminals become role models? External white-collar criminals often work within a gang. The most powerful criminals are honored by the members with special privileges not afforded to the rest of the group. Internal white-collar criminals are not so different. They often work within an analogous gang structure, rise to power using comparable tactics, abuse similar privileges, and serve equally as role models. A successful defense against white-collar crime begins with a single action by one concerned person. Someone must take a stand against the white-collar criminal and then be able to encourage others to take a stand. White-collar criminals will continue to thrive until industry leaders acknowledge the magnitude of the problem, deem this activity intolerable, and take an active role in prevention and education.

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Resources

NEAL CONAN (2002) Analysis: White-collar crime; Talk of the Nation (NPR); March 18.

Turner, Dana L. Stephenson, Richard G (1993) the lure of white-collar crime. (Fraud) Security Management; February 1.

Gips, Michael A (1998)  Where has all the money gone. (white collar crimes) Security Management; February 1.

Lindsay Miarmi and Kenneth G. DeBono. (2007) The Impact of Distractions on Heuristic Processing: Internet Advertisements and Stereotype Use1. Journal of Applied Social Psychology 37:3, 539–548

Markus Kemmelmeier. (2005) The Effects of Race and Social Dominance Orientation in Simulated Juror Decision Making1. Journal of Applied Social Psychology 35:5, 1030–1045

 
 


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