In most cases Edwin Sutherland is regarded as the pioneer of the study of white collar crimes, but this is not to say that the concept (even if not well or completely conceptualized), had not been in existence.
The Devil Wears Prada is a popular movie which I’m pretty sure a lot of people are familiar with. In the context of this write-up, however, it is to describe the fact that crimes are committed not only by people in lower social cadres, but also people in high society. We refer them as white collar crimes.
Sutherland only broadened the concept to correct the misconception that crime(s) were only committed by people in the lower class; and he therefore went ahead to inform that crimes could also be perpetuated by a person highly respected and highly placed in the social strata or class in the course of the person’s occupation.
Creating increasing awareness on white collar crimes has been of importance ever since the emergence of the concept. It is, however, determining the depth of the perpetuation of white collar crimes that has been particularly difficult.
See Also: Corporate Crime
This is mainly because many of these crimes (white collar crimes) go unreported. The most obvious reason would be because people who fall victim of white collar crimes, in a bid to avoid shame, or believing that investigations and prosecution would be wasted efforts, prefer, therefore, to keep quiet about the matter (crime). Where the victim is an organization/business/company, such entity may likely also wish to avoid negative publicity which could arise from admitting to being victims of such crime.
Every crime, irrespective of its intensity, comes with consequence(s) for the individual, firm/business or community that suffers such. White collar crimes have consequences that could be evident on various levels. These consequences could be: individual losses, emotional damages, physical damages, and societal/economic damages.
As the name implies, any loss suffered by an individual or business as a result of a white collar crime is referred to as an individual loss. The cumulative loss accrued to a society on the other hand, by virtue of white collar crimes are societal/economic loss.
White collar crimes are usually accompanied by victimization, morale damage, and mistrust, all of which could result in stress and decreased emotional well being of the victim(s). This is classified as emotional damages/loss/consequences.
There are also some white collar crimes that lead to physical damage on the part of the victim. A retirement or pensions fund crime may cause emotional stress on the victims which could lead to health problems and ultimately result in serious physical injury or even death.
There are also other numerous white collar crimes which could be directly linked to the health and/or life of the victim. White collar crime in the health system, for instance, could be grievous.
However odd it may sound, it is important to mention that there are also some consequences of white collar crimes that could be considered positive. These positive outcomes have been tagged social change, warning light syndrome, community integration and boundary maintenance. It is believed that the occurrence of white collar crime could help send a signal to individuals and the community that all is not well in a particular workplace, hence the warning light syndrome. When a crime is committed in a workplace, it gives the management, the opportunity to see and address the loopholes in their system through which such crime was committed.
In examining boundary maintenance, the explanation is that when some people break the rules and they are caught, some other individuals, by reason of this, learn the rules. They learn the good and bad, or the right and wrong, by witnessing the inappropriate behaviors of others and how they are disciplined.
The occurrence of a white collar crime could also have the tendency of bringing people together. Individuals in a society or neighborhood come together to share strength and like experiences when a crime occurs. White collar crime has a similar effect. Colleagues, subordinates, and superiors who ordinarily would not interact at the workplace would most likely get acquainted in talking about the crime, or trying to deal with the after effect. This sort of reaction is seen as community integration. Lessons are learned and social change occurs.
Although street crimes are generally more popular (but not necessarily more frequent) than their white collar cousin, white collar crimes are equally serious. Most people, however, do not identify white collar crimes when they are being perpetuated. This is usually because of their lack of popularity or because of little or no sensitization about them or mainly because most people perceive them (white collar crimes) in the same way they do street crimes.
Basic pointers have been developed to describe white collar crimes and the white collar crime offenders. White collar crime offenders have been identified to be well educated, individually less frequent or first time offenders, and older in age.
Also, unlike street crimes, white collar crimes are more likely to be large in scope, have a nationwide or international effect, target large organizations, be long term and strategic, and follow a pattern.
Here is an extensive read on white collar crime.
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