White-collar crime refers to crimes committed by people of high social status who hold a respectable position in society. White-collar crime is usually committed during the undertaking of one occupational activity. Criminology attempts to explain the underlying causes of white-collar crime from different perspectives. Examples of white-collar crime include cyber-crime, fraud, infringement of copyrights, bribery, abuse of office, and cases of money laundering (Wilcox & Cullen, 2010).
Criminological literature has different approaches towards white-collar crime. One of the possible explanations for white-collar crime is symbolic interaction; which proposes that white-collar crime is because of interpersonal relationships with individuals who are fond of committing such crimes (Wilcox & Cullen, 2010). White-collar crime gained entry into criminological literature through the works of Professor Edwin Hardin Sutherland in 1939.
Sutherland was investigating the relationship that exists between crime and high society, which is comprised of individuals with high social statuses. Sutherland reported that only a small percentage of white-collar criminals faced the wrath of the criminal justice system (Wilcox & Cullen, 2010). The main aim of the research was to establish a correlation between crimes involving money, social statuses, and the probability that a white-collar criminal will go to jail. Contrary to blue-collar crimes that are due to psychological and social factors, on the other hand, the significant cause of white-collar crime is an opportunity, coupled with weakness in the justice system to handle crimes that are of white-collar nature.
Society is vulnerable to white-collar crime because it is usually hard to detect. Detection of white-collar crime is hard because it does not affect humanity largely. The organizations usually suffer from financial losses rather than causing bodily harm to individuals and destruction of property. Individuals are motivated to participate in white-collar crimes primarily because the benefits that are associated with white-collar crime outweigh the risks.
For example, a crime involving fraud or money laundering is less likely to face lengthy and punitive sentences. In addition, the offender may only be required to pay a small amount of money compared to the total amount stolen. This perception significantly motivates people to be involved in white-collar crime. White-collar crime gained popularity with the socio-technological revolution of the 20th century, leading rise to criminal activities such as cyber-crime, internet impersonation, and fraud.
Despite having few cases involving violence and destruction of property such as blue-collar crime, white-collar crime poses a significant economic threat to organizations. The future of organizations significantly depends on the strategies that they will deploy to combat white-collar crime. The challenge in handling white-collar crime is that most organizations fear publicizing such criminal cases due to the implications that it will have on the organization’s image.
It is arguably evident that white-collar crime is on the increase and it the perpetrators appear to be more of doing business than committing a crime since it entails outweighing the potential risks and the expected benefits before the commitment of a white-collar crime. Therefore, it is important that the criminal justice system put stringent measures on individuals found to be involved in white-collar crime in the same manner as their blue-collar counterparts.
Wilcox, P., & Cullen, F. (2010). Encyclopedia of Criminological Theory. New York: SAGE.