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In 1939 sociologist Edwin H. Southerland argued that there were a big difference between violent crimes, which he called "blue-collar" crime and "white-collar" crime. By blue-collar crime, he meant the violent crimes that were committed by street criminals for the most part. The white-collar crime he defined as "crime committed by a person of responsibility and high social status in the course of his occupation" (http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/White-Collar+Crime). Nowadays, criminologists include bank fraud, bribery, blackmail, counterfeiting, embezzlement, forgery, insider trading, money laundering, tax envision, and antitrust violations to the categories of the white-collar crime. White-collar crime was not on the law enforcement officials' radar until the end of the twentieth century when the losses from it came up to be billions of dollars. In this day and age, white collar crime is the most sophisticated and the least understood by public. The complexity of white-collar crime, the nature of relationships between victim and offender, the character of offender, and punishment of the crime itself are those features, which make white-collar crime special and differ it from any other type of crime.
The intricacy of the white-collar crime makes it very hard to detect. The various mechanisms, which involve its committing is usually so huge and complex that sometimes it takes decades to detect the crime. This is one of the reasons why the phenomenon of repeated victimization characterises white-collar crime a lot. For example, the environment can be polluted for years because of unlawful waste. Then, it takes time to find the qualifying specialists who is able to investigate it. Then, the long process of prosecution begins and because those kinds of criminals can afford very talented lawyers and good legal representation this process is very time-consuming.
The fact is that the various kinds of white-collar crime are prosecuted not as strict as violent crime. I think that the main reason why white-collar criminals are punished less severely than other types of criminals is because in spite of huge material losses white collar crime is still a crime against property but not against a person. For example, what are the crimes that are punished the most serious? Those crimes are clearly defined by Uniform Crime Report; they are Part I Violent Index Crimes - murder, forcible rape, aggravated assault, and robbery. Those crimes are crimes against person. The common feature for them, usually, will be the presence of one victim and one offender. The principle of retribution has to be brought to life because the retribution is one of the basic ones in the criminal justice system. In this case scenario, somebody has to take the responsibility for the wrong doing. The crimes against person are not only simply violent they are also very personal. That means that any juror can replicate the details of the crime on his/her own person or the loved ones. That is why the violent crimes are punished severely, up to the death penalty. It is easy to imagine something very bad happening to one's child but it is hard to blame a huge corporation that increased a price of its product for a few cents.
As for the offender-victim part in case of some kind of white-collar crime, there is usually no one victim and no one offender. From one side it is often many victims such as employees of a corporation, the general director of which was involved in some kind of fraud. From the other side, the victim can be "public health" or the "environment." The absence of one individual victim makes it look like each single individual suffered just a little. In the same time, there is no single offender as well. Often, the wrongdoer is a corporation or a group of people who personally did not harm anyone but the harm was done through fraud. That is why the burden of responsibility is broken into separate pieces and the punishment for each single white-collar criminal is lessened. Moreover, when they do have to go to the prison to serve their time, the conditions of their stay there is usually better than any other criminal would be. The prison guards and society in general do not consider white-collar criminals dangerous, at least not physically and violently dangerous. That is why white-collar offenders have a lot of freedom even behind the bars.
The figure of white-collar offender is significant as well. He/she is not a type of a street criminal who snatches one's purse but he/she is usually very well educated with many scholar degrees. White-collar criminal is usually dressed nice, well groomed, has very developed speaking abilities, and has perfect manners. It is hard to imagine that this kind of a person would intentionally do any harm to you. This is another reason why often the punishment less severe in white-collar cases; the jurors usually expect johns dilingers but not bernards medoffs. White-collar offenders are usually very smart. In order to commit embezzlement or fraud one has to be a person of great intellectual abilities. They took something from the society but in the same time, they have something to offer to it. Before the white-collar offender became criminal, he/she was probably contributing to the society as well.
The unique character of victim-offender characteristics, the unusual features of the criminals, the time longitude of the crime committing, the lessened punishment, the complexity and intricacy of the white-collar crime are those features that separate it from any other type of crime. The relative innovation of this type of crime demands the new methods of detection and investigation from the law enforcement.