White collar crime

As far as the field of criminology is concerned, the term white collar crime can be defined as a crime committed by an individual who is respectable in the society and has a high social status. The person commits a crime while in hisher work place. According to Sutherland (1949), the behaviour of committing a crime is emulated through interacting interpersonally with others. Hence, the term white collar crime extends beyond a corporate crime as embezzlement, forgery and computer theft is more pronounced among white collar employees.

The term white collar crime was first coined by Professor Edwin Sutherland back in the year 1949. He hypothesized that those who commit white collar crimes had different motives and characteristics as compared to common street criminals. Sutherland proposed his theory while addressing the sociological society of America. He was attempting to carry out a study in two fields high society and crime even though they lacked past empirical correlation.

Definitional aspects of white collar crime
According to the type of white collar offence, for example, economic crime, property crime or law violations of health and safety, an appropriate aspect of definition can be arrived at. There are some offences which can only happen because of the offenders identity. A good example is the transnational laundering of money which requires the involvement of senior personnel working in the banks. On the other hand, the Federal Bureau of Investigations has come up with a constricted approach, regarding white collar crimes as those deeds that are illegal which are associated with deceit, trust violation or concealment which does not depend upon the threat or application of physical violence or force (Geis, 1995).

This kind of approach is comparatively persistent within the United States the keeping of records does not effectively gather data on the socioeconomic status of criminals which, as a result, complicates evaluation of research and policy. While the real level and cost of white collar crime remain unknown, it is approximated to cost the United States not less than 300 billion per year as far as Federal Bureau of Investigation is concerned.

The white collar crime can also depend on the type of the offender. For example, it can depend on the social class, or advanced socioeconomic status, the jobs of profession or trust, or qualifications academically, conducting research on motivations of the criminal behaviour, for example greed or fear of economic difficulties. Therefore the only manner in which one crime can differ from the other is through the characteristics as well as backgrounds of the perpetrators. A good number of offenders of white collar crime are differentiated privileges of their lives.

Those crimes that are committed in the course of occupation  to encourage personal interests, for example, by changing records and charging more, or the professionals deceiving the clients, depends on the culture of the organization and not the offender. Another crime that depends on the nature of the organization is the corporate crime which is experienced corporate professionals commits acts of crime for the benefit of their organizations through overcharging, false advertisement or price fixing.

Major debates on white collar crimes
During the old days  which can be referred to as good or bad old days, a very limited number of white collar criminals expected longer prison sentences after being convicted of fraud. Very many famous white collar criminals could not serve more than two years imprisonment.

Contrary to that, almost all the white collar criminals of today can serve some significant time in prison, more so if they get convicted, once a criminal trial has been performed and not necessarily after pleading guilty. Even though financial losses as a result of white collar crimes are very large as compared to common street crime, the conventional judiciary system has laid much emphasis on the latter.

Past studies reveals that citizens have the likelihood of giving support to punitive measure on street crime and not white collar crime. The public awareness on white collar crime has been increased by the recent scandals, but one cannot tell whether the public attitudes have been changed or not. Criminologists provide various explanations about white collar crime, but their approach to these explanations is common with all of them.

They normally commence with a disciplinary school of thought, for example psychology or sociology. This should not be the only starting point which can be considered, but its also important as the white collar crime study has a good number of complicated definitional aspects, and hence a school of thought comprises the initial starting point for many scholars. The level of analysis also poses another problem. The conventional levels of analysis for several scientific explanations are micro, meso and macro.

According to Reiman (1998), there are other interesting words to describe these levels, but the macro explanation level targets to give an explanation of the major causes of something within a society. The meso level attempts to find the middle ground, which is usually the organizational level in the study of white collar crime. The last level which is the micro level explains the personality level. It is responsible for focusing exclusively in the inner functioning of the minds of offenders individually. Most white collar criminology of America has been at the meso level.

There has been a debate for many years on whether a general theory can be proposed that explains both street crimes and white collar crimes. In criminology, the existence of such theories is not there. It might be important to mention a general theory might be able to give an explanation not only to different kinds of crimes, but avail similar reasons why men and women, and majorities and minorities commit crime. This is specifically a tall order and gives an explanation why a good number of criminologists on specialize in one of offender or crime.

On the other hand, there are some who approach the white collar crime study from a victimological or criminalization point of view. Both of these people have the likelihood of perpetuating the incessant definitional arguments within the field, the specialists of criminalization because they brood over why very few white collar offenders get caught, and the specialists of criminalization because they claim that there is no effective grasp of the impact.

Theories of crime
The two theories that the paper is going to talk about are the social learning theory and the strain theory.

Comparison between social learning and strain theories
According to the social learning theory, people learn to involve themselves in a crime, mainly through their interaction with others. They are hardened for a crime, they get to know believes that favour a crime, they get an exposure to models of crimes. Consequently, they come to have that notion that crime is something that is necessary or at least justifiable in certain conditions.
According to the strain theory, people do engage in criminal activities because they are usually under strain or stress. They may involve in crime to minimize or try to evade the stress they are experiencing. For instance, they may involve in violence to stop others from harassing them, they may rob to ease financial problems or escape from homes to run away from cruelty of their parents. They might also participate in criminal activities as revenge to those who wronged them. At the same time, others take illicit drugs for them to feel better.

The fundamental version of theory of social learning in criminology is that proposed by Ronald Akers and the explanation that follows heavily depends on his work. As a result Akerss theory gives a clear explanation of the differential association theory presented by Edwin Sutherland.
There are two types of strain that are addressed by Agnew. The first which can lead to crime is when one is prevented by others from attaining hisher goals. The second one is when things that one values are taken away from himher by others. While strain might be as a result of ones failure of attaining a number of goals, Agnew with others centres on the failure to attain three goals that are related. These are status, money and for the case of adolescents the adults autonomy.

As far as social learning theory is concerned, offenders learn to participate in crime in a similar manner they learn to participate in conforming behaviour. That is through exposure or interaction with others. Intimate or fundamental groups such as peer group and the family have an extensive effect on what we learn. Mostly, interaction with delinquent friends is the best delinquency predictor and not prior delinquency. Nevertheless, one does not need to directly engage with others in order to learn from them. For instance, one may learn to involve in violence from simply observing others do so through the media (Geis, 1995).

A good portion of social learning theory comprises an explanation of the three techniques by which people learn to involve in crime from others. These techniques are beliefs, differential reinforcement and modelling.

Other people may not only advocate for crime, but they may as well teach the beliefs that favour crime. A good number of individuals are of course taught that crime is not good. They usually agree to internalize this kind of belief, and there chances of engaging in criminal activities are reduced as a result. However, a few other individuals learn beliefs that promote criminal activities and there chances of getting involved in crime are thus increased.

One thing is that individuals generally endorse of certain forms of crime that are minor for example certain types of consensual sexual behaviour, use of soft drugs, gambling and alcohol abuse for adolescents and curfew violation. The second thing is that some individuals conditionally endorse or legalises certain forms of criminal activities, some serious crimes included. These people have a mentality that crime is generally not good, but some activities of crime are desirable and justifiable in one way or another. As an example many people will agree that fighting is wrong, but it is desirable if one has been provoked or insulted. There are arguments by several theories that specific groups in our society (more so young, lower class minority male) are likely to view violence as a desirable action towards many insults and provocations.     

Differential reinforcement
People may teach their colleagues to participate in crimes via the punishments provided for misbehaviour. There are high chances of crime when the crime is often punished and when there is a large degree of reinforcement. In a reinforcement that is positive, the behaviour leads to something good. While in reinforcements that are negative the behaviour leads to eradication of something bad. This is a punisher is avoided or removed.

The social learning theory suggests that some people will appreciate climates in which crime is less likely to be punished. For instance parents who have anxious children does not punish them but instead encourage their aggressive behaviour. Or the pals of an adolescent may reinforce the use of drugs.

Imitation of models of crime
Sometimes, ones behaviour also depends on the behaviour of the people surrounding himher. In many cases, people frequently imitate or emulate others behaviour, more so when they respect these others and are sure that emulating their behaviour will lead to reinforcement.
The strain theory version that is most recent that was proposed by Robert Agnew strongly draws on past versions of strain theory. However, Agnew addresses some other forms of strain that were not addressed in the past versions and avails a much comprehensive discussion of the situations under which the chances of strain leading to crime are high.

Factors influencing the impact of strain on crime
Events and conditions which are stressful make individuals feel unwell. These feelings that are unwell mounts pressure for a corrective action. This usually brings about frustration and anger, which encourages the individual for the action, create a revenge desire and make the inhibitions to go down. There are several techniques that can be used to cope with these negative reactions. Theorists of strain try to explain those factors that increase the chances of a delinquent response.

A part from other things, the chances of stain leading to delinquency among people of poor coping techniques are high. Some individuals can easily cope with strain than others. For instance, they have verbal tactics to dialogue with others or financial capability to hire a lawyer. In relation to this, the chances of strain leading to criminal activities among individuals with less traditional social supports are high (Reiman, 1998).

People have to change their perception of white collar crime because it deprives off the country billions of dollars annually. Even though street crime is more evident, the loss it causes to the economy is much less as compared to the loss caused by white collar crime. According to the two theories explained in this paper, individuals engage in criminal activities due to interactions with others (social learning theory) or due to the stresses and strain they experience in their lives (strain theory). These two theories are vividly explained in the paper.


Post a Comment