Occupational crime first started being reported in the early19th Century. It appeared to have occurred in almost every occupation within legitimate jobs (Tobias, 1972:10). Today there is no correct estimation of the amount of people committing occupational crime due to many cases being unreported and uncovered. In 1967 it was estimated in the US, that the total figure of white collar crime amounted to around $21,billion, compared to $600,million resulting from conventional crime (Sutherland, 1967:194).
To present how many people indulge in occupational crime, criminologists predict between 75 and 92per cent of the US regularly take part (Cort, 1959; Horning, 1970; Laird, 1950; Zeitlin, 1971:1). A definition of occupational crime is as follows:” Occupational crime consists of offences committed by individuals for themselves in the course of their occupations and the offences of employees against their employers” (Clinnard and Quinney, 1995:385). Ditton and Henry, (1977:56). Identify four types of occupational deviance. Firstly, informal rewards, which include fiddles, discounts, use of company phone and more.
Secondly, work avoidance including arriving late. Thirdly, employee deviance against the organisation such as stealing and fraud. Fourthly, employee deviance for the organisation for example, failure to observe safety organisations. Occupational crime is therefore committed by normal people who have jobs. It can be committed on your own, or in groups. It is a very widespread activity. Occupational crime is committed for personal gain. The theories behind this will now be explored. Control theories propose that it is in human nature to commit. It is in our natural tendency unless otherwise restrained.
Control Theories believes “Individuals commit crime because of the weakness of forces restraining them from doing so, not because of the strength of forces driving them to do so. “(Vold & Bernard, 1986:84). Control theories can be traced to deviant backgrounds or if there is a physical opportunity available. The theory believes that anyone will steal if given the chance, (Lipman 1973, McCullough, 1981:66)”. Opportunity is a prone deviancy factor. For example, O’Brien, 1977:58-Discusses garage scams. Customers can’t judge service or repairs needed. Garages can perform incomplete service or charge for bogus repairs.
Install used or inferior parts but charge for premium ones. Replace parts unnecessarily. Cars break down more frequently than they otherwise would, result in further costs. Garages that perform this way are more likely to be successful. Garage owners have a clear open opportunity to commit occupational crime. The rewards would be more money. The control theory proposes that any one would take advantage of an opportunity to commit crime. Control theories include other reasons for committing crime such as lack of money or employee justice in the workplace.
Theft can be a reaction to deviant behaviour imposed by employers. It is a form of social control, rather than a theory of crime. Occupational crime can be a form of self help resulting from financial gain (Tucker, 1985:65-67). Many employees commit occupational crime as a form of getting back at their managers for low pay and boring work (Zeitlin, 1971:84). Many workers may feel that the jobs they are doing, they deserve more money for and are being exploited if workers have to suffer a real boring job they may fiddle, as they think they deserve more money when other people have more exiting jobs for more money.
Employee theft rates were measured in manufacturing plants during a period in which pay was temporarily reduced by 15% compared with pre or post reduction pay periods (or with control groups whose pay was unchanged), groups whose pay was reduced had significantly higher theft rates. When the basis for the pay cuts was thoroughly and sensitively explained to employees, feelings of inequity were lessened and the theft rate was also reduced, employees reported feelings of frustration and resentment. These feelings motivated aggressive acts of theft. Theft was the response to restore equity with the employer (Greenberg, 1990:99).
The previous studies prove that workers must feel that they are not being exploited at work. They need to earn enough money and establish good relationships with management. The final point to control theories is to financially gain money. Gaining money/property is a form of self help. The opportunity of gaining extra money is the motivation to do it, if employees are poor, they may feel they have nothing to lose. “Financial strains force employees to take company funds or property” (Cressey, 1953, Merriam, 1977:67). Due to the time of rapid inflation and prevailing economic climate, prices are high and money is scarce.
Pettigrew, 1977:3, “as money gets tighter and harder to come by in Britain, more and more people are finding new ways to make ends meet, and that means going on the fiddle. If wages are low and prices are high, it is not surprising that ends have to be met in other ways. Is the government to blame for the vast amount of fiddling? (Henry, 78:48), describes how Dave, a builder thought it was obvious why people do it. “People on an assembly line, they’ve got all their debts to pay, some are in arrears with gas bills, the electricity bills. If something comes along, they’re gonna have it”.
If they wanna call that dishonest, fair enough. I say that if they need the grub, then they ain’t dishonest”. Workers feel deprived and exploited. There is too much money being paid out and too little coming in. Workers claim society forces them to do it. Hollinger and Clark, (1983:67), criticise the control theory contributing that “Many employees in various occupations have access to money or merchandise but do not steal”. Hollinger and Clark point out that neither household income nor personal financial strains can amount to the predictors of an individual’s likelihood to steal company property.
The control theory contributes valuable points as to why some people commit crime, but cannot be applied to everyone. Plenty of workers have financial difficulties and do not engage in crime. Benefits are paid out of those who do earn low wages and are excluded from paying tax. If it is our human nature to commit crime, why do so many people refrain from committing crime? How come these restraints only restrain some of us? Gerald Mars’s cultural theory (1994:579-585), divides occupations into four different categories possessing different structural characteristics.
Each category has a specific grid dimension, either strong or weak. Strong grid jobs represent jobs that fix people to a defined place where they cannot effectively relate to others, I. e. supermarket cashier. Weak grids involve the freedom for people to interact and involve competition in the workplace. The control over the other employees is greater than the control over oneself. Each category is then labelled either a weak or strong group. Group elements include the amount of interaction the employee gets with other people and takes into account social life, group activities and opportunities.
The four categories are; Hawks, donkeys, wolves and vultures. Hawks have a weak grid and weak group. Examples include businessmen and salesmen. Occupations that emphasise individuality, autonomy and competition belong to Hawks fiddling in the workplace can often be a reason why the hawks business works. For example, i. e. one particular businessman pays his workers the declared basic wage therefore escaping taxation because pay is so low, his workers can claim from the state the maximum family income supplement, therefore increasing their wage.
Due to his workers being on minimum wages, he himself pays less payroll tax than he should, he then gives workers cash in hand from the tills to make up for the low wage he pays them (Mars, 1984:43). The businessman is more likely fiddling the government. His workers are gaining maximum benefits, which would in turn make them appreciate the job more. The businessman is happy to exploit the government, but it may be needed to keep people working for him. Hawks are justified by their benefits and rewards they receive, and the working position they are in. Donkeys have a strong grid and weak group.
The employees are relatively isolated from other workers and their physical movements are restrained. Fiddling is a response to this. Donkeys gain more interest by breaking rules due to the resentment they had felt from their position. Donkeys work in low status jobs, fiddling can make the job fun, gain more control and hit back at the manager. “One girl’s motive was that she hated being treated like a programmed robot and fiddling made her job much more interesting; it gave her new targets and a sense of challenge as well as hitting at her boss where it hurt.
When she changed jobs to another supermarket, she stopped fiddling entirely, because she liked the better way they treated her” (Mars, 1984:31). The previous example shows that occupational crime is not always due to money theft. Other reasons cause crime such as the way you are treated in the workplace. The resentment built up from bad treatment turns to occupational crime. Wolves posses a strong grid and strong group. They are job which are worked by groups, therefore gaining the name ‘Wolf pack’. Wolves work closely and fiddle together. “Survival of the fiddle is linked to the survival of the group” (Mars, 1984:96).
Wolves work in working class occupations i. e. business men. Wolves have the strength of the group making fiddling easier. They stick up for each other, and fiddles are shared out. Newcomers would be assessed and tested. If the new comer was strong and loyal, he would be invited into the group. If he was weak, or didn’t want to take part, he would probably be rejected and excluded from the group. Employees who may not want to take part in occupational crime may be forced into doing so, they may feel so rejected if they didn’t and would want to be part of the gang.
Vultures have a weak grid and strong group. Vultures are also group based. i. e. travelling salesmen. They work for a common supervisor, there is high competition between employees, but need support from the group. ” Organisations tend to heat up competition with achievement league tables or by the monthly listing of salesmen’s records, with large prizes for selling and downgrading for failure” (Mars,1984:118) Vultures are taught how to fiddle and are pressurised into doing so by managers. If vultures have no success in fiddling they may find themselves out of the job.
Due to there being high competition in the work place and league tables as such, vultures would be under even more pressure to perform. Vultures would not want to be seen at the bottom of the league table, therefore would increase fiddling in order to gain more benefits. Mars’s cultural theory explains that occupational crime is not always committed for personal choice. It is not always for the gain of money. Employers may be forced into fiddling by their managers, striving to be the best or just to be part of a group. Occupational crime may be committed to keep the business working smoothly and the employees happy.
Another reason is due to boredom in the workplace, a task which is fun to do as well as hitting back at managers. ” Mars assumes that all occupations of a similar type, are of the same group and grid strength” (Rayner, 1979:38). It would be possible that many occupations that fit into these groups do not fiddle for those reasons. Mars has no explanations for employees stealing to personally earn money. Mars also gives the impression that you wouldn’t be able to hold down certain jobs if you didn’t fiddle. Sutherland has introduced a theory known as Sutherlands Theory.
Sutherland proposes that criminal behaviour is learned through interaction with other criminals. For instance, if one was to work with none criminals, then criminality would not result. The offender learns crime through communication with other criminals. He is taught the techniques of committing the crime and comes to understand the motives and attitudes behind it. The other criminals “transmit an excess of values that promote illegal behaviour” (Sutherland, 1974:71). Evidence to support this theory is provided by Klockars (1974:208).
Klockars found from interviewing a professional dealer in stolen goods that, employers teach their employers how to fiddle. The dealer quoted “oh I school my drivers; show’ em how to go about doin’ things, you know”. Sutherland’s theory would apply to some cases, particularly those in which other criminal employees intend to teach other employees, however many employers work with criminals who understand their techniques yet refuse to disengage. The theory doesn’t explain why the behaviour wants to be learned. It may be a case of if all the other employers can get away with it then so can I, so teach me how.
Differences between Occupational Crime and Conventional Crime The first major difference between conventional crime and occupational crime is the sheer amount of people committing occupational crime. “From dustmen to doctors and from directors to dockers, we are a nation of petty thieves” (The Sun, 1976:172). For many people occupational crime is a daily occurrence. It may take weeks for a conventional criminal to plan out his crime, before doing so. Conventional criminals may commit their crime as a “one off” and the money he has earned through an example, theft may be enough to satisfy his needs.
Compared to occupational criminals, against conventional, one girl could have her hands in the cash till everyday for the rest of her life. Sutherland gave no exact figures but estimated that occupational crime is probably several times as great as the financial cost of all the crimes put together which are customarily regarded as the crime problem (Sutherland, 1940:189). Due to the vast amount of occupational crime committed, you would expect far more prosecutions and media coverage than what is received. However not many crimes are reported and many go undiscovered.
Occupational crimes that are reported are actually treated differently compared to conventional crimes. Bryant (1974:168) points out that although the amount of money obtained through occupational crime may exceed that of conventional crime, the offender is far less likely to be indicted, prosecuted, found guilty and punished compared to the conventional criminal. Sutherland, (1995:34) describes the whole police investigation process as different. Sutherland claims that when an occupational criminal is reported, the police investigation would prosecute the offender and no questions asked about any other offenders.
When the police are investigating a kidnapping case, they want every single person was involved in the case caught and put on trial. Sutherland’s case example gives the impression that occupational crime is not seen as serious crime compared to conventional. The police do not seem to be interested if any other offenders were involved. Conventional criminals are mainly seen as the lower class. Occupational criminals are viewed as the upper class. Sutherland also expresses how differently both types of criminals are punished. The crimes of the lower class are handled by policeman, prosecutors and judges with penal sanctions in the form of fines, imprisonment and death”. The crimes of the upper class result in no official action at all, or result in suits for damages in civil courts with penal sanctions in the form of warnings, the loss of a licence, and in extreme cases fines or prison sentences ( Sutherland, 1995: 35). Green, (1990:180) proposes that it is difficult in establishing criminal intent, which is why courts may avoid prosecution. Managers of businesses may avoid reporting the case to the police because it may seem too much hassle.
Courts can be a long, expensive, time consuming process. Employers may find the easy way out is to dismiss the employee. The employer may have built up a relationship with the employee and court could seem too harsh a process. The employer may not have sufficient proof, or maybe unclear of how many other workers are involved. The Company may end up worse off, and with no sufficient proof the employee could sue for wrongful dismissal. Henry (1978:150) claims “the crimes of the police are best controlled by the police, so the crimes of the ordinary people are best controlled by themselves”.
Whilst there is so many leniencies to do with occupational crime, it is unclear for example, if a conventional criminal walked into a shop and stole one hundred pounds there is little doubt that he would not be reported and put through the court process however if any employee stole one hundred pounds from work, it would result in him/her losing their job. Both of these crimes are not treated the same by the manager or the shop owner of even the state which is why there is a difference between the two.
Not everyone believes that conventional and occupational criminals should be treated differently. Cullen et al (1983:90) concluded from his personal surveys that 9 out of 10 subjects claim that “many occupational criminals have gotten off too easily for too may years; they deserve to be sent to jail for there crimes just like everyone else”. The public are likely to feel that criminals should be treated the same. Both sets are engaging in crime, and both sets can form the necessary intention. It is not only the public’s attitudes that differ.
Some offenders do not regard the act as doing anything wrong. “Those who fiddle and pilfer from work and trade the proceeds apply their own definitions and rules as to what constitutes theft, how their activity is defined, whom one should take from and how much one should take. (Henry & Mars, 1978:249). Limitations can be set by other employees or the employer. One long shore man stated that he had a formula ‘working the value of the boat’. The man ensured that: “If a man takes more than the value of the boat, he is taking more than his moral entitlement. This alters the nature of his action…. p to an agreed level, pilfered cargo is seen as a moral entitlement; beyond this it is seen as theft”, (Henry & Mars, 1978:249).
These sets of rules could never be allowed for conventional crime. Even employers have different attitudes to occupational crime. If employers allowed employees to commit crime, they would definitely see no harm in doing it. Dalton, (1964:64), points out that “What the worker may regard as a bonus or perk, is often deliberately allowed, often as a ‘one off’ indulgence by management who turn a blind eye for the sake of the organisations overall efficiency”.
No member of the public would turn a blind eye to a burglary of their own house. Businesses have their business to ‘protect’. Robin, (1970:124), provides supporting evidence. Company owners and managers often remain ignorant of fiddling and pilfering especially if they have been used to treating such losses as ‘waste’ or a result of poor stock control, or may be unaware of shoplifting and pilfering by sales staff if they have always regarded such losses as shrinkage. Robin, (1970:124) Occupational crimes are less more of a threat to the public compared to conventional crimes.
Cullen et al, (1983:19) points out that the public perceive street crime to be more dangerous and to cause more fear than occupational crime. Conventional criminals are normally unemployed and poor. They could attack any person on the street, therefore they are feared more. Due to conventional criminals not being employed, they do not have the opportunity to commit crime at work. Conventional criminals can be very angry and use violence to get what they want. Occupational criminals can be seen has high class. They can have important jobs such as a doctor and would be far less likely feared on the street.
Occupational criminals commit crime through employment, attacking the business, not innocent bystanders. Occupational criminals may never consider committing conventional crime. The public wouldn’t expect rich and powerful human beings to be committing crime. The police therefore aim to tackle street crime, because the public are first priority for protection. The final difference is that you could not apply the theories of crime for both categories together, as we have seen occupational crime committed by people of high social standing and have a profession. Reasons behind occupational crime can differ to those of conventional crime.
The theories for conventional crime label the criminals lower class and unemployed. Their reasons for committing crime are their personal/social characteristics believed to be associated with poverty. The criminals come from slum neighbourhoods with deteriorated families and can include psychopathic deviations, (Sutherland, 1995:29). Those theories are applied to all conventional criminals. The theories could not be applied to occupational criminals because they do not live in poverty, they are employed, and they can be free from mental disorders and have a stable family life.
Therefore they cannot be placed in the same category as they have completely different causes. One criminological theory which is one of the main theories for explaining offending is the labelling theory. The labelling theory includes powerful groups including the media, government and police labelling deviants as criminals. The theory states that powerful groups label these deviants as ‘criminals’ due to the deviant behaviours they have committed. Once labelled a criminal, the deviants then conform to the behaviour of a criminal.
Occupational criminals rarely get the chance to be labelled criminals due to many of their crimes being kept hidden. Occupational criminals could therefore not use this theory for causes of their criminal behaviour. The criminals have no criminal behaviour to conform to because they are not labelled a criminal. Many conventional criminals cannot gain employment after committing crime due to being labelled a criminal; therefore they are pushed back into a life of crime as a means of gaining money.
Occupational criminals have employment to start with and do not have the negative labelling forces against them as the conventional criminals have. Therefore causes for both sets of criminals differ completely so should not be treated the same. This essay has explored into the theories behind the causes of occupational crime and the difference between occupational and conventional crime. The theories have included that it is our natural tendency to commit crime. We commit occupational crime to gain more money, to hit back at managers and to compete to be the best.
It is not always the struggle for wealth to commit occupational crime as this essay has proved that wealthy people commit the crime. The cause of the crime depends on the individual. This essay has proved that occupational crime is much more widespread than conventional crime. General attitudes towards occupational crime differ with the individual. In some company’s it is allowed, in other company’s occupational crime is condemned. The general make up of an occupational criminal differs to that of a conventional criminal.
On the whole money lost is through occupational crime but conventional crime is the biggest threat to the public. The theories criminologists have proposed can not be applied to both conventional criminals and occupational criminals together because their causes for crime differ. Although both conventional and occupational criminals have striving for wealth in common, on the whole conventional criminals are punished more harshly for it. To attempt to lower the amount of occupational crime, certain areas could be addressed, some people would benefit from higher wages as they are struggling with living costs with their basic low pay.
Employers need to gain a better relationship with their employee to make the employee feel more appreciated. Eradicating competition could also improve conditions. Occupational crime needs to be taken more seriously by employers and the state. Occupational criminals should be labelled, so in the future they know this behaviour is not to be tolerated. Finally, if the opportunity is not there in the first place, then crime cannot be committed. This could involve stricter supervision, extra stock taking, and CCTV. If these problems were addressed, the rates could well be lowered.