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We like to think that society gets more sophisticated as we acquire technology and wealth, and there is some evidence that this is true. Even street gangs are savvier now than ever before, and they're working on new scores, like financial frauds that were once the domain of white collar criminals.
The turf of street gangs has traditionally been the street, usually the streets where gang members lived. But now our notions of connectedness have changed, and the same goes for gangs, who are turning from violent crime to identity theft, tax and medicare fraud, and money wiring schemes, reports the Associated Press. While all crime harms society, and financial fraud is devastating, there may be reasons to be pleased with the egalitarian turn that crime is taking.
Gang violence has been a problem for people living in neighborhoods run by gangs, and for law enforcement. It destroys lives and communities. So perhaps we should be a tiny bit pleased to hear that -- nationwide -- gangs are turning to schemes involving swindling on the Internet and through government programs rather than committing hold-ups or selling drugs.
The Van Dyke Money Gang in New York, for example, made 1.5 million in 2015 on a Western Union money order scheme, the AP writes. The gang is just one of many around the country that are increasingly involved in non-violent schemes.
The reason for the change -- law enforcement posits -- is because as much money can be made on white collar crime while the punishments for offenses like identity theft and tax fraud are less severe than for violent takings involving guns. New York Police Commissioner William Bratton wrote in a commentary in the New York Daily News last month that white-collar crime was being committed by gang members ''to an astonishing degree.''
The change raises a few interesting questions that we as a nation -- and the criminal justice system specifically -- may not be ready to address. Why do we distinguish between white-collar and blue-collar crime?
Is it because financial fraud is really less harmful to society than violent crime or is it because we traditionally associated such crimes with "the good kind" of people, like professionals? With everyone getting in on white-collar crime do we increase punishments for those offenses now?
It would seem the sensible thing to do. But for now, law enforcement is just wrapping its head around the notion of street gangs using new schemes that once seemed the province of the professional crook.
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