Crime

Crime

Crime is the breach of rules or laws for which some governing authority can ultimately prescribe a conviction.

Learning Objectives

Relate cultural change to changing definitions of crime

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • While every crime violates the law, not every violation of the law counts as a crime. Breaches of contract and of other civil law may rank as “offenses” or as “infractions. ” Torts are wrongs against private parties that can give rise to a civil cause of action.
  • In sociology, a normative definition views crime as deviant behavior that violates prevailing norms, or cultural standards prescribing how humans ought to behave normally.
  • Criminalization is a procedure deployed by society as a pre-emptive, harm-reduction device, using the threat of punishment as a deterrent to anyone proposing to engage in the behavior causing harm.
  • As cultures change and the political environment shifts, societies may criminalize or decriminalize certain behaviors, which directly affects crime statistics and social perception of crime and deviant behavior..
  • Criminology is the scientific study of the nature, extent, causes, and control of criminal behavior in both the individual and in society.
  • As cultures change and the political environment shifts, societies may criminalize or decriminalize certain behaviors, which directly affects the crime statistics.
  • Crime statistics refers to the collection and calculation on data on crime in a given location.
  • Criminology is the scientific study of the nature, extent, causes, and control of criminal behavior in both the individual and in society.

Key Terms

  • criminalization: The act of making a previously legal activity illegal.
  • Deviant Behavior: The violation of prevailing norms or cultural standards prescribing how humans ought to behave.
  • Breaches of Contract: An action in which a binding agreement or bargained-for exchange is not honored by one or more of the parties to the contract by non-performance or interference with the other party’s performance.

Crime is the breach of rules or laws for which some governing authority can ultimately prescribe a conviction. Crimes may also result in cautions, rehabilitation, or be unenforced. Individual human societies may each define crime and crimes differently, in different localities, and at different time stages of the crime. While every crime violates the law, not every violation of the law counts as a crime; for example, breaches of contract and of other civil law may rank as “offenses” or as “infractions. ” Modern societies generally regard crimes as offenses against the public or the state, as distinguished from torts, which are wrongs against private parties that can give rise to a civil cause of action.

In sociology, a normative definition views crime as deviant behavior that violates prevailing norms, or cultural standards prescribing how humans ought to behave normally. This approach considers the complex realities surrounding the concept of crime and seeks to understand how changing social, political, psychological, and economic conditions may affect changing definitions of crime and the form of the legal, law-enforcement, and penal responses made by society.

These structural realities remain fluid and often contentious. For example: as cultures change and the political environment shifts, societies may criminalize or decriminalize certain behaviors, which directly affects the statistical crime rates, influences the allocation of resources for the enforcement of laws, and re-influences the general public opinion. One can view criminalization as a procedure deployed by society as a pre-emptive, harm-reduction device, using the threat of punishment as a deterrent to anyone proposing to engage in the behavior causing harm. The state becomes involved because governing entities can become convinced that the costs of not criminalizing, through allowing the harms to continue unabated, outweigh the costs of criminalizing it, restricting individual liberty, for example, to minimize harm to others.

Similarly, changes in the collection and calculation of data on crime may affect the public perceptions of the extent of any given “crime problem.” All such adjustments to crime statistics, together with the experience of people in their everyday lives, shape attitudes on the extent to which the state should use law or social engineering to enforce or encourage any particular social norm. Criminology is the scientific study of the nature, extent, causes, and control of criminal behavior in both the individual and in society.

Types of Crime

Criminal law, as opposed to civil law, is the body of law that relates to crime and that defines conduct that is not allowed.

Learning Objectives

Identify and differentiate between different types of crimes

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • In criminal law, an offense against the person usually refers to a crime which is committed by direct physical harm or force being applied to another person.
  • A violent crime is a crime in which the offender uses or threatens to use violent force upon the victim.
  • Sex crimes are forms of human sexual behavior that are crimes. Someone who commits one is said to be a sex offender.
  • Property crime involves the taking of money or property, and does not involve force or threat of force against a victim.
  • Hate crimes occur when a perpetrator targets a victim because of his or her perceived membership in a certain social group, usually defined by racial group, religion, sexual orientation, disability, class, ethnicity, nationality, age, sex, or gender identity.
  • Organized crime is the transnational, national, or local grouping of highly centralized enterprises run by criminals for the purpose of engaging in illegal activity.
  • Virtual crime refers to a virtual criminal act that takes place in a massively multiplayer online game (MMOG).
  • Organized crime are transnational, national, or local groupings of highly centralized enterprises run by criminals for the purpose of engaging in illegal activity

Key Terms

  • Property Crime: Property crime is a category of crime that includes, among other crimes, burglary, larceny, theft, motor vehicle theft, arson, shoplifting, and vandalism. Property crime only involves the taking of money or property, and does not involve force or threat of force against a victim.
  • organized crime: A set of large criminal organizations (often competing for markets and territories) that deal in illegal goods and services.
  • Violent Crime: A violent crime, or crime of violence, is a crime in which the offender uses or threatens to use violent force upon the victim. This entails both crimes in which the violent act is the objective, such as murder, as well as crimes in which violence is the means to an end, (including criminal ends) such as robbery. Violent crimes include crimes committed with and without weapons.

Criminal law, as opposed to civil law, is the body of law that relates to crime. It could be defined as the body of rules that defines conduct that is not allowed because it is held to threaten, harm or endanger the safety and welfare of people, and that sets out the punishment to be imposed on people who do not obey these laws. Criminal law is distinctive for the uniquely serious potential consequences, or sanctions, for failure to abide by its rules.

Offenses Against the Person

In criminal law, an offense against the person usually refers to a crime which is committed by direct physical harm or force being applied to another person. They are usually analyzed by division into fatal offenses, sexual offenses, or non-fatal non-sexual offenses. Although most sexual offenses will also be offenses against the person, sexual crimes are usually categorized separately. Similarly, although many homicides also involve an offense against the person, they are usually categorized under the more serious category.

Violent Crimes

A violent crime is a crime in which the offender uses or threatens to use violent force upon the victim. Violent crimes include crimes committed with and without weapons. They also include both crimes in which the violent act is the objective, such as murder, as well as crimes in which violence is the means to an end, such as robbery. The United States Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) counts five categories of crime as violent crimes: murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault. According to BJS figures, the rate of violent crime victimization in the United States declined by more than two thirds between the years 1994 and 2009. On September 30, 2009, 7.9% of sentenced prisoners in federal prisons were in for violent crimes; 52.4% of sentenced prisoners in state prisons at yearend 2008 were in for violent crimes; and 21.6% of convicted inmates in jails in 2002 were in for violent crimes.

Sex Crimes

Sex crimes are forms of human sexual behavior that are crimes. Someone who commits one is said to be a sex offender. Some sex crimes are crimes of violence that involve sex. Others are violations of social taboos, such as incest, sodomy, indecent exposure or exhibitionism. There is much variation among cultures as to what is considered a crime or not, and in what ways or to what extent crimes are punished.

Property Crimes

Property crime is a category of crime that includes burglary, larceny, theft, motor vehicle theft, arson, shoplifting, and vandalism. Property crime only involves the taking of money or property, and does not involve force or threat of force against a victim. Although robbery involves taking property, it is classified as a violent crime, since force, or threat of force, on an individual is involved, in contrast to burglary which typically takes place in an unoccupied dwelling or other unoccupied building. In 2005, only 18% of reported cases of larceny/theft were cleared in the United States.

Hate Crimes

Hate crimes occur when a perpetrator targets a victim because of his or her perceived membership in a certain social group, usually defined by racial group, religion, sexual orientation, disability, class, ethnicity, nationality, age, sex, or gender identity.

Virtual Crimes

Virtual crime refers to a virtual criminal act that takes place in a massively multiplayer online game (MMOG). The huge time and effort invested into such games can lead online “crime” to spill over into real world crime, and even blur the distinctions between the two. Some countries have introduced special police investigation units to cover such “virtual crimes. ” South Korea is one such country, and looked into 22,000 cases in the first six months of 2003.

Organized Crime

Organized crime is the transnational, national, or local grouping of highly centralized enterprises run by criminals for the purpose of engaging in illegal activity, most commonly for monetary profit. Sometimes criminal organizations force people to do business with them, as when a gang extorts money from shopkeepers for “protection. ” An organized gang or criminal set can also be referred to as a mob.

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Handcuffs: Handcuffs pictured on the ground outside the courthouse

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Crime Does Not Pay: Shooting a Baby: “Crime Does Not Pay” was one of the primary targets of Dr. Fredrick Wertham’s crusade against comics books, and were often cited in his writing and during the Senate inquiries into the comic book industries corruption of the innocent. The general theme of “Crime Does Not Pay” is exactly what the title of the series suggests – criminals rise to power, but come to an often violent end. This panel is from issue 22 of the series.

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Crime Dog: Anti-crime campaign using the crime dog cartoon

Crime Statistics

Crime statistics attempt to provide statistical measures of the crime in societies.

Learning Objectives

Evaluate U.S. crime statistics and the various ways law enforcement officials gather them

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The two major methods for collecting crime data are law enforcement reports and victimization statistical surveys.
  • Statistics from law enforcement organizations are normally readily available and are generally reliable in terms of identifying what crime is being dealt with by law enforcement organizations.
  • Victimization surveys are useful because they show some types of crime are well reported to law enforcement officials, while other types of crime are under reported.
  • The U.S. has two major data collection programs: the Uniform Crime Reports from the FBI, and the National Crime Victimization Survey from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Key Terms

  • Victimization Statistical Surveys: The survey results are used for the purposes of building a crime index.
  • crime: a specific act committed in violation of the law
  • Uniform Crime Reports: The UCR Program is a nationwide, cooperative statistical effort of over 18,000 city, university and college, county, state, tribal, federal, and other law enforcement agencies who voluntarily report data on crimes brought to their attention.
  • Crime Statistics: The collection and/or calculation of data on crime.

Crime statistics attempt to provide statistical measures of the crime in societies. Several methods for measuring crime exist, including household surveys, hospital or insurance records, and compilations by police and similar law enforcement agencies. Typically official crime statistics refer to the latter, but some offences are likely to go unreported to the police. Public surveys are sometimes conducted to estimate the amount of crime not reported to police. Given that crime is usually secretive by nature, measurements of it are likely to be inaccurate. The two major methods for collecting crime data are law enforcement reports and victimization statistical surveys.

Crime statistics are gathered and reported by many countries and are of interest to several international organizations, including Interpol and the United Nations. Law enforcement agencies in some countries, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the United States and the Home Office in England & Wales, publish crime indices, which are compilations of statistics for various types of crime. The U.S. has two major data collection programs: the Uniform Crime Reports from the FBI and the National Crime Victimization Survey from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The National Crime Victimization Survey has its use, but it also limited in its scope. For example, it only collects data on the following crimes – assault, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft, rape and robbery. The U.S. has no comprehensive infrastructure to monitor crime trends and report the information to related parties, such as law enforcement.

Crime can generally be broken down into 2 categories – violent and nonviolent. Violent crimes involve harm to another person, generally done intentionally. The seriousness of the crime is determined by the amount of harm; use of a weapon also increases the seriousness. By contrast, nonviolent crime involves harm to property and/or possessions. Fraud or certain drug charges are examples of nonviolent crimes.

Because of the difficulties in quantifying how much crime actually occurs, researchers generally take two approaches to gathering statistics about crime. First, they often use statistics from law enforcement organizations. These statistics are normally readily available and are generally reliable in terms of identifying what crime is being dealt with by law enforcement organizations, as they are gathered by law enforcement officers in the course of their duties, and are often extracted directly from law enforcement computer systems. However, these statistics often tend to reflect the productivity and law enforcement activities of the officers concerned, and may bear little relationship to the actual amount of crime. One way in which victimization surveys are useful is that they show some types of crime are well reported to law enforcement officials, while other types of crime are under reported. These surveys also give insights as to why crime is reported, or not. This allows degrees of confidence to be assigned to various crime statistics.

Research using a series of victim surveys in 18 countries of the European Union in 2005, funded by the European Commission, has reported that the level of crime in Europe has fallen back to the levels of 1990, and notes that levels of common crime have shown declining trends in the U.S., Canada, Australia and other industrialized countries as well. The European researchers say a general consensus identifies demographic change as the leading cause for this international trend. Although homicide and robbery rates rose in the U.S. in the 1980s, by the end of the century they had declined by 40%.

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FBI Seal: The U.S. has two major data collection programs: the Uniform Crime Reports from the FBI, and the National Crime Victimization Survey from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Juvenile Crime

Juvenile delinquency is participation in illegal behaviors by minors. A juvenile delinquent is typically under the age of 18.

Learning Objectives

Describe the factors that influence the development of delinquency in youth and the ways the legal system deals with this delinquency

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • A juvenile delinquent is a person who is typically under the age of 18 and commits an act that otherwise would have been charged as a crime had they been an adult.
  • There are three categories of juvenile delinquency: delinquency, criminal behavior, and status offenses. Delinquency includes crimes committed by minors which are dealt with by the juvenile courts and justice system.
  • Criminal behavior are crimes dealt with by the criminal justice system.
  • Status offenses are offenses which are only classified as such because the person is a minor; they also dealt with by the juvenile courts.
  • Poverty is a large predictor of low parental monitoring, harsh parenting, and association with deviant peer groups, all of which are in turn associated with juvenile offending. Family factors also have an influence on delinquency.
  • Delinquency prevention is the broad term for all efforts aimed at preventing youth from becoming involved in criminal or other antisocial activity.
  • Poverty is a large predictor of low parental monitoring, harsh parenting, and association with deviant peer groups, all of which are in turn associated with juvenile offending.
  • Family factors which may have an influence on offending include: the level of parental supervision, the way parents discipline a child, particularly harsh punishment, parental conflict or separation, criminal parents or siblings, parental abuse or neglect, and the quality of the parent-child relationship
  • Delinquency prevention is the broad term for all efforts aimed at preventing youth from becoming involved in criminal, or other antisocial, activity.

Key Terms

  • Delinquency Prevention: Delinquency prevention is the broad term for all efforts aimed at preventing youth from becoming involved in criminal or other antisocial activity. Prevention services may include activities such as substance abuse education and treatment, family counseling, youth mentoring, parenting education, educational support, and youth sheltering. Increasing availability and use of family planning services, including education and contraceptives helps to reduce unintended pregnancy and unwanted births, which are risk factors for delinquency.
  • Status Offenses: A status offense is an action that is prohibited only to a certain class of people, and most often applied to offenses only committed by minors.
  • juvenile delinquency: Participation in illegal behaviour by minors.

Juvenile Delinquency

Juvenile delinquency is participation in illegal behavior by minors. Most legal systems prescribe specific procedures for dealing with juveniles, such as juvenile detention centers and courts. A juvenile delinquent is a person who is typically under the age of 18 and commits an act that would have otherwise been charged as a crime if the minor was an adult. Depending on the type and severity of the offense committed, it is possible for persons under 18 to be charged and tried as adults.

Juvenile delinquency can be separated into three categories:

  1. Delinquency: crimes committed by minors that are dealt with by the juvenile courts and justice system;
  2. Criminal behavior: crimes dealt with by the criminal justice system;
  3. Status offenses: offenses which are only classified as such because one is a minor, such as truancy, also dealt with by the juvenile courts.

Young men disproportionately commit juvenile delinquency. Feminist theorists and others have examined why this is the case. One suggestion is that ideas of masculinity may make young men more likely to offend. Being tough, powerful, aggressive, daring, and competitive becomes a way for young men to assert and express their masculinity. Alternatively, young men may actually be naturally more aggressive, daring, and prone to risk-taking. According to a study led by Florida State University criminologist Kevin M. Beaver, adolescent males who possess a certain type of variation in a specific gene are more likely to flock to delinquent peers. The study, which appeared in the September 2008 issue of the Journal of Genetic Psychology, is the first to establish a statistically significant association between an affinity for antisocial peer groups and a particular variation (called the 10-repeat allele) of the dopamine transporter gene (DAT1).

There is also a significant skew in the racial statistics for juvenile offenders. When considering these statistics, which state that Black and Latino teens are more likely to commit juvenile offenses, it is important to keep the following in mind: poverty is a large predictor of low parental monitoring, harsh parenting, and association with deviant peer groups, all of which are in turn associated with juvenile offending. The majority of adolescents who live in poverty are racial minorities.

Family factors that may have an influence on offending include:

  • the level of parental supervision,
  • the way parents discipline a child,
  • particularly harsh punishment,
  • parental conflict or separation,
  • criminal parents or siblings,
  • parental abuse or neglect,
  • the quality of the parent-child relationship.

Delinquency prevention is the broad term for all efforts aimed at preventing youth from becoming involved in criminal or other antisocial activity. Because the development of delinquency in youth is influenced by numerous factors, prevention efforts need to be comprehensive in scope. Prevention services may include activities like substance abuse education and treatment, family counseling, youth mentoring, parenting education, educational support, and youth sheltering. Increasing availability and use of family planning services, including education and contraceptives, helps to reduce unintended pregnancy and unwanted births—which are risk factors for delinquency.

Juvenile Delinquency: Juvenile delinquency refers to antisocial or illegal behavior by children or adolescents, for dealing with juveniles, such as juvenile detention centers. There are a multitude of different theories on the causes of crime, most if not all of which can be applied to the causes of youth crime.

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Cure Juvenile Delinquency by Planned Housing: Poster promoting planned housing as a method to deter juvenile delinquency, showing silhouettes of a child stealing a piece of fruit and as an older minor involved in armed robbery.

Violent Crime

A violent crime is a crime in which the offender uses or threatens to use violent force upon the victim.

Learning Objectives

Explain how the United States Department of Justice classifies violent crime

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The United States Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) counts five categories of crime as violent crimes: murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault.
  • Violent crimes include crimes committed with and without weapons. With the exception of rape, males are the primary victims of all forms of violent crime.
  • The rate of violent crime victimization in the United States declined by more than two thirds between the years 1994 and 2009.

Key Terms

  • Simple Assault: In law, assault is a crime which involves causing a victim to apprehend violence.
  • aggravated assault: Assault with disregard for the value of life, or with a deadly weapon.
  • Forcible Rape: A type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse, which is initiated by one or more persons against another person without that person’s consent.

A violent crime is a crime in which the offender uses or threatens to use violent force upon the victim. This entails both crimes in which the violent act is the objective, such as murder, as well as crimes in which violence is the means to an end, such as robbery. Violent crimes include crimes committed with and without weapons. With the exception of rape (which accounts for 6% of all reported violent crimes), males are the primary victims of all forms of violent crime.

The comparison of violent crime statistics between countries is usually problematic due to the way different countries classify crime. Valid comparisons require that similar offences between jurisdictions be compared. Often this is not possible because crime statistics aggregate equivalent offences in such different ways that make it difficult or impossible to obtain a valid comparison.

The United States Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) counts five categories of crime as violent crimes: murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault. According to the BJS, the rate of violent crime victimization in the United States declined by more than two thirds between the years 1994 and 2009. Nearly 8% of sentenced prisoners in federal prisons on September 30, 2009 were in for violent crimes; 52.4% of sentenced prisoners in state prisons at yearend in 2008 were in for violent crimes; and 21.6% of convicted inmates in jails in 2002 were in for violent crimes.

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Chicago Violent Crime Map: Map of violent crimes in 2005 in Chicago community areas per 100,000 residents.

Since the 13th century AD, evidence shows large long-term declines in the rate of murder, from one hundred people to one person per 100,000 between 1200 and 2000 AD. By contrast, there is a widespread belief that violent crime is on the rise, due largely to a mass media, which disproportionately reports violent crime.

Property Crime

Property crime only involves the taking of money or property, and does not involve force or threat of force against a victim.

Learning Objectives

Discuss different types of property crime

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Burglary of residences, retail establishments, and other commercial facilities involves breaking and entering, and then stealing property.
  • Theft of cash is most common, followed by vehicle parts, clothing, and tools.
  • Shoplifting is a specific type of theft, in which products are taken from retail shops without paying.
  • Motor vehicle theft is a common form of property crime, often perpetrated by youths for joyriding.
  • The percentage of U.S. households that experienced property crime dropped from 21% in 1994 to 12% in 2004. Moreover, from 1996 to 2005, the number of arrests in the United States for property crime has declined by 22.1%.

Key Terms

  • burglary: The crime of unlawfully breaking into a vehicle, house, store, or other enclosure with the intent to steal.
  • shoplifting: It is the theft of goods from a retail establishment. It is one of the most common property crimes dealt with by police and courts.
  • Property Crime: Property crime is a category of crime that includes, among other crimes, burglary, larceny, theft, motor vehicle theft, arson, shoplifting, and vandalism. Property crime only involves the taking of money or property, and does not involve force or threat of force against a victim.

Property crime is a category of crime that includes larceny, theft, motor vehicle theft, arson, shoplifting, vandalism, and burglary. Property crime only involves the taking of money or property, and does not involve force or threat of force against a victim. Property crimes are high-volume crimes, with cash, electronics, power tools, cameras, and jewelry often targeted.

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Car Window Burglary: This is a photographic example of a car that has been burglarized.

Burglary of residences, retail establishments, and other commercial facilities involves breaking and entering, and then stealing property. Attempted forcible entry into a property is also classified as burglary in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) definition. In the United States, burglary rates are highest in August and lowest in February, with weather, length-of-day, and other factors having an effect on rates. Fall and winter are peak seasons for burglary in Denmark. Most residential burglaries occur on weekdays, between 10 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 3 p.m., when homes are the least likely to be occupied. Some crime prevention programs, such as Neighborhood Watch, have shown little effectiveness in reducing burglary and other crime.

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Property Crimes in the United States: Property crime rates in the United States, 1986-2005

Theft of cash is most common, followed by vehicle parts, clothing, and tools. In 2005, only 18% of reported cases of larceny and theft were cleared in the United States. Shoplifting is a specific type of theft, in which products are taken from retail shops without paying. Items popular with shoplifters include cigarettes, alcoholic beverages, and fashionable clothing. Motor vehicle theft is a common form of property crime, often perpetrated by youths for joyriding. The FBI includes attempted motor vehicle thefts in its Uniform Crime Report (UCR) definition. Crime prevention and target-hardening measures, such as car alarms and ignition locks, have been effective deterrents against motor vehicle theft, as have been practices such as etching VINs on car parts. Only 13% of reported motor vehicle theft cases were cleared in the United States in 2005.

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Theft: An example of theft: someone took everything except for the front wheel.

Statistics for violent crimes are accessible and available to the public. In 2004, 12% of households in the United States experienced some type of property crime, with theft being the most common. The percentage of U.S. households that experienced property crime dropped from 21% in 1994 to 12% in 2004. Moreover, from 1996 to 2005, the number of arrests in the United States for property crime has declined by 22.1%. The decline is far larger for offenders under age 18, with a decrease of 43.8% in property crime arrests, compared to a 9.5% decrease for those 18 and over. The peak age for property crime arrests in the United States is 16, compared to 18 for violent crime arrests.

White-Collar Crime

White-collar crime is a financially motivated, nonviolent crime committed for illegal monetary gain.

Learning Objectives

Describe Edwin Sutherland’s work on white collar crime

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • White-collar crime, is similar to corporate crime, because white-collar employees are more likely to commit fraud, bribery, ponzi schemes, insider trading, embezzlement, cyber crime, copyright infringement, money laundering, identity theft, and forgery.
  • The term “white-collar crime” was coined in 1939 by the sociologist Edwin Sutherland, who defined it as a “crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation”.
  • White collar crimes stand in contrast to blue-collar street crimes include arson, burglary, theft, assault, rape, and vandalism.
  • Corporate crime deals with the company as a whole. Their difference is that white-collar crime benefits the individual involved, and corporate crime benefits the company or the corporation.
  • Insider trading, the trading of stock by someone with access to publicly unavailable information, is a type of fraud.

Key Terms

  • insider trading: Buying or selling securities of a publicly-held company by a person who has privileged access to information concerning the company’s financial condition or plans.
  • copyright infringement: The unauthorized use of copyrighted material in a manner that violates one of the copyright owner’s exclusive rights, such as the right to reproduce or perform the copyrighted work, or to make derivative works that build upon it.

White-collar crime is a financially motivated, nonviolent crime committed for illegal monetary gain. White-collar crime, is similar to corporate crime, because white-collar employees are more likely to commit fraud, bribery, ponzi schemes, insider trading, embezzlement, cyber crime, copyright infringement, money laundering, identity theft, and forgery.

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Ponzi scheme: In March 2009, the American financier Bernard Madoff pleaded guilty to 11 federal felonies and admitted to turning his wealth management business into a massive Ponzi scheme that defrauded thousands of investors of billions of dollars.

The term “white-collar crime” was coined in 1939 by Edwin Sutherland, who defined it as a “crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation” in a speech entitled “The White Collar Criminal” delivered to the American Sociological Society. Much of Sutherland’s work was to separate and define the differences in blue-collar street crimes such as arson, burglary, theft, assault, rape, and vandalism, which are often blamed on psychological, associational, and structural factors. Instead, white-collar criminals are opportunists, who learn to take advantage of their circumstances to accumulate financial gain. They are educated, intelligent, affluent, and confident individuals whose jobs involve unmonitored access to large sums of money.

Corporate crime deals with the company as a whole. The relationship that white-collar crime has with corporate crime is that they are similar because they both are involved within the business world. Their difference is that white-collar crime benefits the individual involved, and corporate crime benefits the company or the corporation. Insider trading, the trading of stock by someone with access to publicly unavailable information, is a type of fraud. One well-known insider trading case in the United States is the ImClone stock trading case. In December 2001, top-level executives sold their shares in ImClone Systems, a pharmaceutical company that manufactured an anti-cancer drug. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigated numerous top-level executives, as well as Martha Stewart, a friend of ImClone’s former chief executive who had also sold her shares at the same time. The SEC reached a settlement in 2005.

One common misconception about corporate crime is that its effects are mainly financial. For example, pharmaceutical companies may make false claims regarding their drugs and factories may illegally dump toxic waste. Indeed, the Hooker Chemical Company dumped toxic waste into the abandoned Love Canal in Niagara Falls and sold the land without disclosing the dumping. It was sold in the 1950’s to a private housing developer, whose residents began experiencing major health problems such as miscarriages and birth defects in the 1970’s.

Organized Crime

Organized crime refers to transnational, national, or local groupings of highly centralized enterprises run by criminals.

Learning Objectives

Compare and contrast patron-client networks and bureaucratic organized crime groups

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • An organized gang or criminal set can also be referred to as a mob.
  • Patron-client networks are defined by the fluid interactions they produce.
  • The best known patron-client networks are the Sicilian and Italian American Cosa Nostra, most commonly known as the Sicilian Mafia.
  • Bureaucratic and corporate organized crime groups are defined by the general rigidity of their internal structures.
  • The term “street gang” is commonly used interchangeably with “youth gang”, referring to neighborhood or street-based youth groups that meet “gang” criteria.

Key Terms

  • Corporate Organized Crime: Crimes committed either by a corporation (i.e., a business entity having a separate legal personality from the natural persons that manage its activities), or by individuals acting on behalf of a corporation or other business entity (see vicarious liability and corporate liability).
  • Patron-Client Networks: Patron-client networks are defined by the fluid interactions they produce. Organized crime groups operate as smaller units within the overall network, and as such tend towards valuing significant others, familiarity of social and economic environments, or tradition.
  • corporate crime: illegal acts committed by a business or corporation (a business entity having a separate legal personality from the natural persons that manage its activities) or by individuals acting on behalf of a business
  • Street Gang: A group of recurrently associating individuals with identifiable leadership and internal organization, identifying with or claiming control over territory in the community, and engaging either individually or collectively in violent or other forms of illegal behavior.

Organized crime refers to transnational, national, or local groupings of highly centralized enterprises run by criminals for the purpose of engaging in illegal activity, most commonly for monetary profit. Sometimes criminal organizations force people to do business with them, as when a gang extorts money from shopkeepers for “protection.” Gangs may become “disciplined” enough to be considered “organized.” An organized gang or criminal set can also be referred to as a mob.

Patron-client networks are defined by the fluid interactions they produce. Organized crime groups operate as smaller units within the overall network, and as such tend towards valuing significant others, familiarity of social and economic environments, or tradition.

Some notable patron-client networks involve the Russian and Albanian mafias, the Japanese Yakuza, the Irish mob, and the Sicilian and Italian American Cosa Nostra (i.e. the Sicilian mafia).

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Organized Crime: Al Capone is a name often associated with organized crime.

Bureaucratic and corporate organized crime groups are defined by the general rigidity of their internal structures. Focusing more on how the operations works, succeeds, sustains itself or avoids retribution, they are generally typified by: a complex authority structure; an extensive division of labor between classes and the organization; responsibilities carried out in an impersonal manner; and top-down communication and rule enforcement mechanisms.

A distinctive gang culture underpins many, but not all, organized groups; this may develop through recruiting strategies, social learning processes in the corrective system experienced by youth, family, or peer involvement in crime, and the coercive actions of criminal authority figures. The term “street gang” is commonly used interchangeably with “youth gang”, referring to neighborhood or street-based youth groups that meet “gang” criteria.

Organized crime groups often victimize businesses through the use of extortion or theft and fraud activities like hijacking cargo trucks, robbing goods, committing bankruptcy fraud, insurance fraud, or stock fraud. Organized crime groups seek out corrupt public officials in executive, law enforcement, and judicial roles so that their activities can avoid, or at least receive early warnings about, investigation and prosecution.