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In today's society, crime and corruption is all around us. Network news stations are filled with reports on local murders, shootings, robberies, and rapes. Most people are familiar with these types of crimes, but one type of crime that is on the rise and somewhat unknown by American citizens is "white collar" crime. Although all types of crimes can be damaging to all parties involved including the community, "white collar" crime can become the most costly type of crime. In the arena of white-collar crime, there exist a growing number of examples of well-educated people making business and professional decisions that violate the law (Coleman, 2001; Frank & Lombness, 1988).
Embezzlement, tax evasion, fraud, and forgery are the most common forms of "white collar" crime in today's businesses and large corporations. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, embezzlement rose thirty eight percent from 1984 to 1993 (U.S. Dept. of Justice). It is also reported that forgery and counterfeiting increased by twenty-one percent from 1984 to 1993 (U.S. Dept. of Justice). "White collar" crime differs from other types of crime such as street crimes because "white collar" crime uses a computer or telephone as their weapon of choice. Often the number one reason for "white collar" crime is greed. Businesses and large corporations become overwhelmed with greed which results in illegal behavior in order to acquire complete wealth and success. Unfortunately, this creates a barrier between what is right and what is wrong.
As a result of "white collar" crime, laws have been created to regulate this type of crime. For example, the Commerce Clause was added to the U.S. Constitution to make sure the federal government had the authority to regulate "white collar" crime. The federal agencies responsible for regulating "white collar" crime are the FBI, IRS, EPA, and the U.S. Customs. A well-known incident of "white collar" crime was the Enron scandal. As a result of this scandal, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act was created to ensure that businesses and large corporations were held accountable for financial reports and were following the strict standards set by Congress. Combing the two, legal changes and federal agencies, the U.S. government can hopefully prevent "white collar" crime within businesses and large corporations.
"White collar" crime can have various effects on American businesses and average citizens. From a financial standpoint, "white collar" crime can put an economic burden on American consumers. Crime does not come cheap in our country, especially "white collar" crime. This type of crime can increase business costs which can have a trickling effect and result in higher consumer prices. "White collar" crime such as tax can also impact taxpayers and the average American citizen.
"White collar" crime can also be compared to such crimes as conventional crime, organized crime, and/or victimless crime. Of these crimes, I believe that victimless crime is becoming a widespread epidemic in America. When victimless crime is compared to that of "white collar" crime, it can be identified that there are some socioeconomic differences between the two. Victimless crimes perhaps more accurately called "crimes without complainants," include drug use, gambling, and prostitution (Conklin, 2010). Unlike "white collar" crimes, victimless crimes involve willing participants with no complaints to report. Also, victimless crimes are not as costly to the federal government when compared to that of "white collar" crimes. Victimless crimes are also hard to manage and report because the participants are willing and consenting to illegal behavior. Unlike "white collar" crimes, law enforcement agencies do not have the manpower or the resources to manage and control victimless crimes. Often this type of crime never gets reported unless the victimless crime turns into robbery, murder, or rape.
Although victimless crime is beginning to spread across our nation just as "white collar" crime, it is apparent that "white collar" crime is very costly for our federal government. Individuals and large corporations are overwhelmed with greed and take it upon themselves to do whatever it takes to achieve complete wealth and success. Along the way, average citizens and consumers are feeling the consequences with rising costs, loss of benefits, and loss of employment. As these hidden costs and consequences begin to surface to the American people, hopefully this will be a wakeup call for our country and we will finally realize that "white collar" crime is just as serious as "crime in the streets." As James Coleman has observed, "Any effort to deal with the problem of "white collar" crime must be aimed at changing the 'ethical climate' within the corporations and the government." (Coleman, 2001)