To be clear, no crime is “good.” And to the victim of a crime, the one they experienced is usually the so-called “worst.” But on the law books, some crimes are considered worse than others. They carry harsher penalties and often have a much darker social stigma.

Such is the case with white-collar crime. Much of the public views this type of crime as less serious than “real” crimes like murder, burglary, and arson. These crimes leave a physical mark that signifies their presence – and for many victims, validation.

They may have missed the mark just a bit.


What is White Collar Crime?

White-collar crimes are offenses that involve deception, theft, and fraud but are non-violent in nature. They are typically committed by professionals in organizations or businesses who hold a position of trust, such as a treasurer or accountant. However, small businesses and even non-profit organizations can house professionals who are white-collar criminals.

Some of the most common types of white-collar crime include:

  • Embezzlement
  • Forgery
  • Conspiracy
  • Bribery
  • Computer crimes
  • Identity theft
  • RICO
  • Mortgage fraud
  • Mail and wire fraud
  • Money laundering
  • Healthcare fraud
  • Credit card fraud


How Does White Collar Crime Differ from Street Crime?

White-collar crime is often called the rich man’s crime. This is because the people who are engaging in that criminal behavior are business professionals which places them in a higher income bracket, so they are viewed as being upper middle or upper class. And the crimes they commit are an effort to make even more money. These crimes are often prosecuted at the federal level.

Street crime, on the other hand, is often viewed as a crime that is less sophisticated. The criminals are usually not of the same ilk as white-collar criminals, although that is definitely not always the case. From a general viewpoint, though, white collar is often viewed as more high brow while street crime lower class. These crimes are often prosecuted at the state level.

One tends to be violent and the other does not.


white collar crime vs street crime
White collar crime vs Street crime

Is White Collar Crime Just a Version of Street Crime?

Some may say that white-collar crime is just a higher level of crime, but the law distinguishes the two with very clear parameters. The elements of the crimes, how they are investigated, how they are prosecuted, and the sentences for those convicted have distinct differences, making them quite different.

On the other hand, white-collar crime is a form of theft but instead of using weapons and force, the perpetrator uses coercion and deceit to get what they want. Instead of someone forcing their way in to take what they want, the white-collar criminal uses trust to deceive and manipulate to take what they want. So in that respect, there are some similarities.


Is White Collar Crime Worse than Street Crime?

Many say that white-collar crime is worse than street crime for several reasons.

  • It is done under the table instead of out in the open like the majority of street crimes
  • It is rooted in gaining someone’s trust and using it to defraud them
  • It involves manipulation and deception
  • It has the potential to be more harmful with more victims affected by a single crime
  • It is very difficult to track and even identify the victims
  • It is punished more severely than street crime
  • It is expensive with annual losses from white-collar crimes totaling between $400 billion and $1.7 trillion each year. This does not include the financial impacts to the taxpayers
  • It can significantly impact the U.S. economy by causing businesses to lose a lot of money, lowering incomes, and increasing the unemployment rate as impacted businesses fold

Street crimes are less discerning when it comes to victims. Anyone can be a victim of a street crime, regardless of income bracket.


Is White Collar Crime Treated More Severely or Less Severely than Street Crime?

When a criminal commits a street crime they are arrested and sentenced to a regular prison cell with high security alongside other criminals who have committed a wide variety of crimes from theft to murder to arson. Some of the crimes were fatal; some were not.

When a criminal commits a white-collar crime they are arrested and are usually sentenced to a minimum security federal prison, also known as “Club Fed.” There, they are among other criminals who have committed similar crimes. However, the prison terms can be much longer and the fines much higher. The person convicted will also usually have to pay restitution to their victims.

In many ways, most types of white collar crime is worse than street crime.




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