Objective: To discuss, and explore whether while collar crime is as harmful as street crime. Methods: Information will be retrieved from academic sources that will provide in-depth discussion between the different investigative practice between both crimes, as well as a review for some landmark cases of both types of crimes, and their impact on society. Results: White collar crime is as harmful or sometimes more harmful than street crime in many instances.
Key Words: White collar crime, street crime, penalties, cases, Ponzi schemes, politicians
Some scientists, and scholars argue that there should be more focus on crimes committed by people who steal, rape, hit, murder, steal cars, break into homes, or threaten people; all forms of street crimes. Others suggest that the aggressive focus on street crimes is just a cover-up for more serious crimes called white collar crimes that affect the environment (polluting), cases of medical malpractice (as in the death of Michael Jackson), and maintaining a dangerous, and hazardous work environment. Politicians often give one reason as to why there is so much focus on street crime they say there is no better scapegoat in society than those livening in the inner-city, and urban communities. Along with absurd focus on street crimes the resultant issue of racial disparity in incarcerating. Most people of color live in urban areas, so the media helps to portray images of a criminal, by showing people of color. Politicians with the help of the media help to sway the opinions of the public away from white collar crime, to fully focused on street crimes, where the there is an ‘us against them’ philosophy, which makes street crime to many the most ‘evil of all evils’.
Politicians justify millions of dollars spent to create more jails, and prisons while hiring more judges, police officers, and correctional staff investing a lot of money to the justice system; pointing out the impact of this evil committed by people who primarily live in urban areas. At the same time, less focus on white collar crimes, which are financially, economically, and at times physically more devastating to an individual, group or the larger society are promoted as more acceptable by these politicians whose views promote this acceptance; one where people are murdered in unsafe working conditions. Shows like ‘Cops’ are created with the intention of telling the truth about crime in the United States. Unfortunately the only crimes shown are those of stress crimes, often white collar crimes are not mentioned in the media unless it will cause a large scandal like the Enron, and Bernie Madoff Ponzi Schemes. Even with the damage from both scandals they were not given as much publicity, and negative press as would a gang shootout in an urban community. It projects that murder by guns, knives or weapons are unacceptable in comparison to the person dying from lead exposure.
The general public holds different ideological, political, and intellectual meanings of crimes. The nature of crime is always tied is always viewed, understood, and measured according to economic success; an important part of the American society. There is an overwhelming need to succeed in, and in corporate America many are pressured to drive, and keep their profits up. This pressure encourages many to commit white-collar crimes. In the court of law, crimes of this nature are often dismissed by society as just another business practice gone awry by overzealous, and ambitious corporate executives who are working to stay above the competition. In contrast many in the general public have been victimized by street crimes or know someone who has fallen prey to perpetrators of street crimes. It is easier to observe when a person is a victim of a burglar or physical assault. The media also plays a role in portraying street crimes as more aggressive and harmful than white collar crimes because street crimes can be reality observed, unlike white collar crime. For this reason, the general public, and criminologists alike spend more time, and take more notice of street crimes. The focus lends itself to victims and perpetrators of street crimes, while largely ignoring white collar crime, and is impact. In spite of the fact that less attention is given to white collar crime than street crime, the media has covered some major landmark white collar crimes within the last two decades. White collar criminals are seen as isolated deviants, and for that reason their types of crime, and criminality are not given as much attention as white collar crime. These isolated deviants are viewed as individuals who just happened to make bad choices, and did not intentionally set out to be a criminal. The public’s apathetic attitude towards white collar crime has come under much scrutiny and has been challenged by traditional wisdom. Traditional information has revealed that while collar crime is equally seriousness, and the seriousness of their offenses is also perceived based on the way their crime impacts individuals in comparison to traditional/street crime. More than 70 years ago, Edward Sutherland coined this term called white-collar crime. His intention was to draw attend to crimes that are committed, but ignored by individuals that can be found at all social classes. Since days of Sutherland, it is still difficult to understand the nature of white collar crime, because a universally accepted definition has not been offered to conclusively define it. The extent, definition, public attitudes toward white collar crime characteristics of white collar criminals, and consequences of that crime will be reviewed throughout this paper.
Street Crime and White Collar Crime
Both of these crimes are born out of places created by individuals who want to inflict pain on another, which will negatively affect the lives of those individuals. Generally street crime is seen as more violent when compared to white collar crime. White collar crime can have devastating impact on people both emotionally, and financially, which is similar impact that street crime has on individuals, but also h negative physical effects on a person. Penalties associated white collar crime, and street crimes are similar, but the length of commitment and time is quite different. For example large fines, community confinement, home mention, restitution, supervised release forfeitures, costs of prosecution, and imprisonment are both potential penalties for white collar, and street crime. When we analyze the societal problem of crime, we must still ask ourselves, ‘which crimes is more harmful; white collar of street crime?
Crime is a social problem that plagues our society; it is all around us, and impacts our daily lives. Robberies, rapes, murders, and physical assault are classified as ‘street crimes’, and for many these are the only devastating crimes that exist because of their abilities to be tragic, and heinous; all very preventable. Finsterbusch identified another type of crime called white collar crime in his book ‘Taking Sides’. Both crimes have victims, and devastatingly impact individuals, and the larger society. Regardless of the nature, perpetrator, and reason of the crime we all can agree that people are negatively impacted by crime, and each produce grave consequences. In more cases white collar crime is more costly, and financially stressful. This does not mean white collar crimes do not impact victims physically. Corporations that are with close to billon dollars can be more dangerous, than and even twice as deadly as gang networks. For example regarding polluting, if a woman dies from lead poison she contracted from her job, her death is still considered murder even though it is not a visible to of homicide. Whether a person is murdered on the road to die from lead exposure, it is still considered to be murder, and a victim can be found in both situations.
Scope of the Issue
Americans incur annually close to $250 billion to $1 trillion in economic damages from white collar crime. Clearly it is a very serious issue in the United States. Crimes such as bank fraud, bribery, blackmail, embezzlement, credit card fraud, pyramid and Ponzi schemes, and identity theft to name a few are examples of white collar crimes. To determine whether white collar crime is more harmful than street crimes, some considerations should be made. For example: 1. The extent to which they impact others, and monetary damages should be determined; 2. The likelihood of the victims to recover from the crime, and their victimization, 3. The likelihood of the victims to be compensated for the wrong committed against them; and 4. Acceptability of the public of white collar crime over street crime. White collar crimes receive less just deserts for their behavior than those who commit stress crimes who are caught, and heavily punished. As all funding is spent on addressing street crime, other programs are impacted because their funding capacity largely diminishes, as government is now taking money from education programs to curtail the actions of street criminals who they see as the most ‘evil’. In urban areas the school systems have severe budgetary problems, and they are not able to adequately educate these children who then turn to the streets for their education. As money is syphoned from social services programs in these communities, which traditional address issues like poverty cause these individuals to stay in poverty. Even healthcare is affected as the government can justify some people not having access because those officials are too busy creating prisons to protect society from the ‘evil’ and ‘deviant’ ones.
White collar criminals appear to have a safety net woven by the public’s views of its negative impact, and their acceptability of this crime over street crime. White collar criminals are more difficult to find as they are protected by anonymity making it difficult for law enforcement to find them in a criminal investigation. Once they are found, apprehended, and convicted their access to more money makes it easier for them to secure high-paying, and affluent legal representations to protect them against any type of repercussions, whereas perpetrators of street crimes often do not have access to this amount of money, which heightens their vulnerability in the criminal justice system. For this reason, white collar criminals, and their crimes are seen as less harmful, and more acceptable than street crimes in the United States (U.S.). Investigations: The government is more focused on wiping out street crimes such as the drug cartels, illegal immigration schemes, and child pornography networks. So it invests money in the workforce of law enforcement agencies so numerous individuals, and a lot of man hours will be dedicated to apprehending those who commit street crime. The focus is on tracking activities of narcotic dealers such as ‘El Chapo Guzman’, CEO of the Sinaloa cartel. It is now spending as much time trying to track the activities of individuals who run businesses that negative impact the American economy. Its focus is on wiping all activities linked to street crime such as drug trafficking, but no interest is shown to wipe out white collar crime because of the opportunities it presents in the free, and open market. Here politicians are engaged in a game of what can be termed selective deterrence; deterrence efforts focused on street crime, and traditional criminals.
In sum, we know with collar crimes are almost 100 times more costly, and in turn harmful to individuals. It invades a person’s personal spaces, and the economic disadvantages incurred re immeasurable, and at times tragic. Yet there is no urgency to address this type of crime. White collar criminals often have money, and they are the same one making decisions as they often have the legislative power, which decides if/when law enforcement will ever, investigate or deal with white collar crime. These individuals are corrupt, but when the corrupt has the power, what is considered ‘justice’ in America is a façade, and white collar crime being socially acceptable will continue to destroy the American society.
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