Defining White Collar Crime

Essay by cpatonHigh School, 12th grade October 2009

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Stories of white collar crime are often on the news, in newspapers and various other forms of media. If you asked people in the general public that being a "man or woman on the street," you would surely find that most of them have heard of white collar crime. However, if you asked them to explain just what white collar crime is, the answers you would receive would not be very informative. Most people would probably say something about men in suits who steal money and don't go to prison and let if go at that. Yet, the overall concept of white collar crime is a complex and inconclusive subject. In this paper, firstly I will discuss briefly the introduction of white collar crime by theorist Edwin Sutherland. Secondly, I will identify the continuing debates about the term white collar crime's scope and meaning. Thirdly, I will discuss the importance of white collar crime within the field of criminology.

"The concept of white collar crime was introduced by theorist Edwin Sutherland in 1939" (Ransley and Prenzer, 2007, p.137). It was stated in the book Trusted Criminal (fourth edition) that "Edwin Sutherland was the first to coin the term, and hypothesize that white collar criminals attributed different characteristics and motives than the typical street criminals". Sutherland presented this theory in an address to the American Sociological Society where he defined the term white collar crime as "a crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation"(Ransley & Prenzler 2007, pp136). Throughout his career Sutherland changed and developed his definition of white collar crime several times. Although Sutherland's white collar crime was one of the most important contributions to the field of criminology he failed to develop a clear cut...