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Public Perceptions of White-Collar Crime and Punishment

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Justice Volume: 36 Issue: 1 Dated: March/April 2008 Pages: 50-60
Kristy Holtfreter; Shanna Van Slyke; Jason Bratton; Marc Gertz
Date Published
March 2008
11 pages
This study examined citizen perceptions of white-collar and street crime, as well as attitudes regarding apprehension and punishment.
The findings revealed public concern about fraud, a common form of white-collar crime. While a majority of respondents reported that violent criminals should be punished more severely than white-collar criminals, over one-third expressed the opposite opinion. Additionally, just under two-thirds of this sample felt that the government should devote equal or more resources toward white-collar crime control. Thus, while the public generally perceives violent street offenders as more likely to be apprehended and to receive harsher sanctions, as well as being more deserving of harsher sanctions, this did not translate to support for greater governmental resource allocation for violent crime relative to white-collar crime. The American public desires increased formal social control of fraud, regardless of greater perceived seriousness of violent crime. Further insight into the role of perceived victim harm may be critical in determining how public perceptions of crime seriousness are related to public support for government resource allocations. Data were collected using a 2005 national sample of 402 telephone survey participants. This research extended prior studies by also considering the influence of sociodemographic characteristics, as well as perceptions of white-collar crime and punishment on the public's support for increasing resource allocation. Tables, notes, references, appendix