Sunday, August 2, 2009

Is White Collar Crime as Bad as Street Crime?

Is white collar crime as bad a problem as "street crime?" What do you think?

For years, in addition to prosecuting fraud and public corruption as a federal prosecutor, I have also taught a course, part-time, on white collar crime at a local university. All of the authors of the textbooks we have used in the course consistently sing the same refrain: that "crime in the suites" is generally as serious, or more serious, as "crime in the streets." For example, in "Profit Without Honor," Stephen Rosoff points out that the cost of bailing out just one financial institution has exceeded the combined costs of all bank robberies in the history of the United States. In addition, consumer advocate Ralph Nader has coined the term "delayed violence" to illustrate that, in many cases, such as a polluting plant which dumps cancer-causing chemicals into our air or water, the costs of white collar crime are very severe, but the public simply doesn't realize or see the problems until a number of years have passed.

So, maybe it's just a public perception problem. Perhaps white collar crime is more costly to our society in the long run, but its costs are often just more difficult to perceive, in contrast to a bleeding victim lying in the street. But what do YOU think?

1 comment:

  1. Fraud is by far the most costly crime in this country, but people are not as worried or scared by it as street crime, because there is a perception that fraud is at least partly the victim's fault, and because the people who perpetrate fraud seem more like you and me than the people who hold up liquor stores.