Organized and White-Collar Crime

Organized, white collar, and corporate crime all are motivated primarily by the desire to amass wealth, political or social power, or to prevent their loss. Organized crime is a business enterprise involving highly structured or organized groups that engage in illegal activities, often using violence to achieve goals. It differs from terrorist groups in many ways. Organized crime traces back to the political machines of the early 20th century. Prohibition resulted in a shift of power from city bosses to private individuals engaged in organized crime. Some immigrants used violence and intimidation to control their criminal empires, which were often composed of groups of families with close connections. However, many criminal organizations in the United States operate as fluid networks. Some start out as street gangs, although there are distinct differences between criminal organizations and street gangs. Differential association and strain theories are particularly suited to describing the motivations of individuals within criminal organizations. Organized crime groups engage in many types of activities. Recently, transnational organized crime has increased; globalization has been both a facilitator and a possible solution of transnational crime.

White-collar crime involves offenses committed by individual employees for their own benefit during the course of legitimate business. Applicable theories include differential association theory, conflict theory and techniques of neutralization, and Merton’s strain theory. The difference between white-collar crime and street crime is in the techniques used, rather than the offenders’ motivation. Common offenses include various types of fraud and theft.

Corporate crime occurs within the normal scope of business when corporate executives step over the boundary between legal aggressive business practices and outright cheating. Offenders seek to further their own interests by furthering the interests of the company. It is often difficult to detect. The determination of whom to prosecute depends on the concepts of either corporate personhood or vicarious liability; the latter is how the legal system currently prosecutes corporate crime. Corporate offenses may be perpetrated against consumers or against the environment. Environmental, or “green,” criminology is an emerging field that focuses on the harm done by careless or intentional damage to the environment and examines activities not within the scope of traditional criminology.