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Part VII Chapter 42. Opportunity Structures for White-Collar Crime Engdahl. Part 7: Ch. 42. Opportunity is a central component in white-collar crimes Sutherland (1983) initially studied criminality among upper social classes Says it was made possible by “positions in power”

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Opportunity Structures for White-Collar Crime Engdahl

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Part VII

Chapter 42

Opportunity Structures for White-Collar CrimeEngdahl

Part 7: Ch. 42

  • Opportunity is a central component in white-collar crimes

  • Sutherland (1983) initially studied criminality among upper social classes

    • Says it was made possible by “positions in power”

  • White-collar crime: people who help positions in “respectable” or had “high social status” (Sutherland)

    • Criminality had to do with misuse of position in order to commit crime

Part 7: Ch. 42

Occupational crime or corporate crime

Focus on crimes that occur through & on behalf of companies

Or are committed by virtue of position that accrues to a person in his/her professional role

I. Barriers As Opportunity Structures for White-Collar Crime: An Empirical Example

Part 7: Ch. 42

A. Background

Part 7: Ch. 42

  • Example of barrier concept:

    • Broker at firm loses $1 million of client’s money & attempts to hide it for four years

    • After four years, it totals to $21 million, and cannot be hidden.

    • The fact that broker could hide it for so long from client & firm’s other employees exemplifies that accounts were permeated with barriers that obstructed suspicion & detection of crime

  • Referred to as financial self-interest, low priority of control & interpretative primacy

B. Financial Self-Interest

Part 7: Ch. 42

  • Relations between broker & client were informal & involved oral agreements in person, nothing in writing

  • Client gave broker (loose) instructions such as “do the deals you think are good”

  • Client regarded broker as knowledgeable & felt he was exploiting broker for his business savvy

  • Perceived broker to be highly reliable

  • Client-broker relationship became friendly while financial interests took backseat

B. Financial Self-Interest

Part 7: Ch. 42

Broker considered a “pro” strongly interested in “generating profits” and “demanding”

He quickly rose to higher positions within the firm & by virtue of his position was able to “get away” with his blunder (i.e., losing $21 million for client)

C. Low Priority of Control

Part 7: Ch. 42

  • Another reason why broker had opportunity structure

  • Client was involved in multiple deals & needed someone to assist him

  • Client allowed broker to carry out deals in certain areas & didn’t pay close attention to account statements

    • Referred to as absence of capable guardians

  • One reason why control is deficient & creates opportunities for crime

D. Interpretative Primacy

Part 7: Ch. 42

  • This is where differences in knowledge give certain actors interpretative primacy, enabling them to make major mistakes, while others take advantage of that knowledge gap

  • Broker’s job was very complicated & his own knowledge was matched by ignorance from clients, colleagues, chiefs & other people related to his work.

  • This further created opportunities for broker to commit crime without being detected

Review Questions

Part 7: Ch. 42

What gives rise to white-collar crimes?

What is the goal of white-collar criminality in the context of social positions?


Deviant Careers

A. Entering Deviance

Part 8

  • Attracts greatest amount of scholarly attention for two reasons:

    • Policy makers have great interest in finding out how and why people enter deviance so they can prevent it

    • It is fairly easy data for researchers to collect because every person or group of deviants can tell the story of how they got into the scene

Part 8

Over the past decades sociologists have provided information to public that has been adapted to make decisions aimed at influencing and deterring deviance

It includes protective factors that in facing multiple risks, act to prevent individuals from becoming involved in such deviance

Part 8

  • This includes the concept of “at risk” populations a range of risk factors such as:

    • gang membership

    • dropping out of school

    • unwed pregnancy

    • suicide

    • depression

    • eating disorders

    • arrest

B. Training & Socialization of New Deviants

Part 8

  • Not much research has been written about this topic for several reasons:

    • While most deviants may be socialized to the norms and values of their activity through contact with fellow deviants, most receive little explicit training in how to do deviance

    • Real training occurs when deviants work together, side by side, as a team, leaving only crews and deviant organizations as places where training may occur

    • Researchers have suggested that the number of criminals engaged in crew operations has declined in recent years

C. Change Over Time

Part 8

  • This type of process analysis requires in-depth understanding not easily gotten through snapshot approach of survey research

  • Longitudinal studies of deviant careers are rare, but valuable

    • They can identify motivations, rewards, conflicts, and problems that deviants encounter over course of their deviant careers

    • Such studies are very helpful to people who struggle to understand themselves, friends and family members caught up in deviance as well a to policy makers

D. Exiting Deviance

Part 8

  • High political-policy interest in this topic as search for ways to induce persons to quit their deviance

  • This is a difficult topic to research:

    • Information on longer-term deviants and their attitudes toward the scene, the people in them, their hopes and dreams is scarce

Part 8

  • Available research suggests several “push” and “pull” factors as follows:

    • Individuals with whom the deviant interacts, such as victims or spouses, may push them out of deviance especially in extended exploitative transactions such as incest

    • Among drug traffickers deviants may burn out from extended drug use and increasing risk of arrest or death

    • Reentering the straight world can be difficult since legitimate work that pas well may be limited and even putting together a resume that accounts for gaps in work

E. Post-Deviant Life

Part 8

Most difficult data to collect since such persons will be difficult to identify or locate once they have left deviant worlds and seek to blend into straight society

F. Deviant vs. Legitimate Careers

Part 8

This approach views deviance as an occupation and compares it to legitimate jobs

Work in deviant areas may hold similarities to the skills, professionalism, connections and attitudes of conventional jobs

Part 8

  • Goods and services are bought, sold, and distributed;

  • Costs, profits and risks are calculated;

  • Business opportunities, associates, suppliers, and customers identified, assessed and communicated with

  • Yet there are limitations to this analogy:

    • Contracts cannot be legally enforced

    • careers are much less stable and subject to change

    • the business environment has high risks of death and imprisonment to those involved


Chapter 43

Deciding to Commit A BurglaryWright & Decker

Part 8: Ch. 43

Demographic characteristics of burglars: young, male and poor

Still, such demographic information does not explain causes of residential burglary since many poor, young males never commit a serious offense

The direct cause is a perceptual process through which the offense comes to be seen as a means of meeting an immediate need (i.e. a motive for crime is formed)

Part 8: Ch. 43

In almost all cases, decision to commit a residential burglary arises in face of perceived, pressing need for cash

More than 90% of offenders in study sample report they broke into dwellings because they needed money

Part 8: Ch. 43

  • Need for such cash to solve immediate problem not long range one;

    • Burglary a matter of day to day survival

  • Thus not surprising that the frequency of offender burglaries governed by amount of money in their pockets:

  • Most would not offend if they had enough cash to meet current expenses

  • Most offenders did not save money they got from burglary but used it for one of three purposes as follows:

    • To “keep the party going”

    • To keep up appearances

    • To keep themselves and their families fed, clothed and sheltered

A. Keeping the Party Going

Part 8: Ch. 43

Nearly 75% of sample reported using money from burglary for high-living, most commonly drugs, especially crack cocaine

Lemert (1953) labeled such behavior “dialectical, self-controlled systems” since they exhibit a “false structure,” or internal logic that calls for constant law-breaking in order to sustain on-going life of partying, drug use, etc.

Part 8: Ch. 43

Such offenders become involved in offending without significant calculation:

Having embarked voluntarily on one course of action, crack smoking, they suddenly find themselves drawn into unanticipated activity of residential burglary without reasoned reflection

Beyond illicit drugs and alcohol purchase, about 15% of sample used burglary proceeds to pursue sexual conquests

Part 8: Ch. 43

Like getting high, sexual conquest was a much prized symbol of hipness and high status among male peers

The high life, burglary lifestyle reflects the values of the street culture, one characterized by an openness to “illicit action”

B. Keeping Up Appearances

Part 8: Ch. 43

45% of those who committed burglaries for money reported using the cash to purchase status items such as clothing primarily to project an image of self to others on street

After clothes, cars and auto accessories were next most popular status items to secure

B. Keeping Up Appearances

Part 8: Ch. 43

Offenders’ concerns for outward appearances of notorious high-living reflects a strong attachment to values of street culture

Seen through offender’s eyes, however, such disdain for financial planning reflects money well-spent on maintaining or lowering one’s status on street

C. Keeping Things Together

Part 8: Ch. 43

About 50% of sample said they paid bills with money from burglary

However, bills were often badly delinquent since offenders avoided paying them as long as possible even when they had cash in order to buy drugs and other items

Spontaneity is a prominent feature of street culture and many offenders displayed tendency to live for the moment

C. Keeping Things Together

Part 8: Ch. 43

Katz (1988) suggests that through irresponsible spending, persistent offenders seek to construct an environment of pressures which direct them back into crime

Authors’ research found no indication such a conscious pattern existed; however, it is the case that offenders do not hesitate to spend money, leaving them with few alternatives to committing crimes

D. Why Burglary?

Part 8: Ch. 43

While burglary is prompted by need for cash, why is burglary selected over legitimate avenues of income?

Partly this was due to desire for money immediately: even day labor would not provide funds quickly enough

D. Why Burglary?

Part 8: Ch. 43

Also jobs available to most offenders were poorly paid and could not sustain high-living

18% of sample were legitimately employed;

44% of unemployed said they would stop committing crime if they had a “good” job

With immediate need for cash, most offenders in sample saw little hope of getting cash quickly and legally

E. Seductions of Residential Burglary

Part 8: Ch. 43

  • A few subjects, about 6%, said they did not typically commit burglaries for money as much for psychic rewards

  • Such persons reported breaking into dwellings for

    • thrills connected with risk

    • challenges inherent in the crime

    • opportunity for display of competence

E. Seductions of Residential Burglary

Part 8: Ch. 43

Burglaries provided excitement but also chance to “be somebody” by completing a dangerous act

It also provided persons opportunity to demonstrate a sense of control and mastery over their lives and hence respect from others as well as self-respect

Review Questions

Part 8: Ch. 43

What kinds/types of burglaries seem more appealing than others?

What accounts for choosing deviance (burglary) over legitimate means of earning a living?

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