When the news media discusses crime, they’re usually talking about armed robbery, homicide, assault and other violent crime. But when researchers look at the overall state of criminal behavior in America, these so-called street crimes are just party of the picture.
In fact, when you look at types of crime in terms of their costs to the economy, street crimes are dwarfed by the costs of white-collar crime. According to Senate Judiciary Committee Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, corporate crime — white-collar crimes committed in the corporate setting — costs the U.S. economy more than $300 billion every year. The annual cost of street crime, meanwhile, is estimated to be much lower: around $16 billion.
Still, most of the Department of Justice’s resources have gone toward combating street crimes. Durbin is one of a group of lawmakers who are pushing for the Justice Department to devote more resources to fighting white-collar crime.
One proposal they have put forward is for a national database of corporate crime. Proponents point out that the Justice Department has long kept ongoing records about many types of street crime, it has not kept similar records about corporate fraud, tax violations and other white-collar crime. In fact, proponents say, the Justice Department hasn’t issued a thorough report of corporate crime since 1979.
The lawmakers want the agency to compile this data and publish it so that the public has a better idea of the scope of the problem.
What is white-collar crime?
As a term, “white-collar crime” refers to nonviolent financial crimes that occur mostly in a workplace setting. This loose category can encompass everything from an individual worker’s embezzlement of their employer’s funds to a large-scale fraud scheme committed by a major corporation.
But, if the term itself is rather vague, the charges involved are very real, and can have harsh consequences for those convicted. State and federal agencies are well prepared and well-funded when they prosecute these cases, and so it’s especially important that the accused seek out the strongest criminal defense professionals they can.
With the renewed attention on corporate and white-collar crime, we may see more prosecution of these cases in the near future.