Blue-collar crime is an informal term meant to describe specific types of crime that are usually violent and unsophisticated.
Typically committed by individuals from a lower social status, blue-collar crimes can include robbery, shoplifting, and assault. Even though it doesn’t affect everyone, blue-collar crime happens on a daily basis, and it’s personal in nature.
They’re contrasted to white-collar crimes which are nonviolent crimes conducted in professional settings.
The below blue-collar crimes are roughly ranked by average prison time (from lowest to highest). Sentencing has many complex factors related to the context of the crime.
Related: 23 Popular Blue-Collar Jobs
Examples of Blue-Collar Crimes
Type of crime: Theft
Average prison sentence: 1 to 10 years
Fines: from $50 to $5,000
About 1 in 11 (27 million) Americans have shoplifted in their lives. In the last couple of years, over 10 million people have been caught committing this crime.
It involves stealing goods from a shop while pretending to act like a typical customer.
Shoplifters usually hide their stolen goods in the clothes they wear. They may also wear them to pretend that they already own the products. They then leave the store without paying.
Jail time varies depending on the value of the stolen property.
Type of crime: Misdemeanour
Average prison sentence: a couple of days to a few years (depending on the damage caused)
Fines: $500 to $25,000
This crime involves the damage and destruction of property to blemish or defecate an area.
Like, spray panting someone’s car, fence, or wall, carving initials on public or private property, keying or puncturing cars and tires, breaking someone’s window, etc.
This is intentional damage and punished as such.
Then again, not all acts of misdemeanor carry a heavy sentence (like dumping rubbish or drawing graffiti). However, it can cost the person money and put their safety in jeopardy.
3. Property Theft
Type of crime: from lower-level offenses to high-level felony.
Average prison sentence: 2 or 3 years
Fines: from a couple of hundred to thousands of dollars.
Property crime is a lot more common than violent crime in the U.S.
In 2018, over 7.2 million property crimes were reported. This category of crime involves taking property without using force or breaking and entering—one of the most common forms being larceny-theft.
The prison sentence can vary based on the level of crime.
Type of crime: Misdemeanour or a felony
Average prison sentence: 1 to 10 years.
Fines: $500 to $10,000
The act of physically attacking a person is known as assault. It can be both planned and unwanted.
Sometimes, this crime can result in criminal prosecution. When the attacker acts with the intent to assault or hurt their victim, this can land them a prison sentence.
Type of crime: Felony
Average prison sentence: 3 to 7 years
The act of setting a property on fire to deliberately burn that property is called arson.
In 2020, there were almost 40,000 arson offenses recorded in the U.S., Roughly 15,000 of which were structure fires.
Usually, people commit arson to carry out insurance fraud.
6. Motor Vehicle Theft
Type of crime: Felony
Average prison sentence: 17 months to 8 years
Fines: $5,000 but can vary.
The act of trying or stealing a motor vehicle is a relatively common occurrence, with Colorado having the highest rates of motor vehicle thefts in the U.S.
Due to the economic downturn and realignment of law enforcement, the country saw a big spike in car theft in the early 2020s.
Type of crime: Misdemeanor or felony
Average prison sentence: 1 to 20 years
Fines: less than $1,000. But can reach $100,000 depending on the conviction.
Burglary is a type of crime that involves breaking and entering to commit a crime.
Across the United States, more than 1 million burglaries are carried out annually. In fact, 1 burglary happens every 25.7 seconds. That’s roughly 3,300 a day.
8. Drug Smuggling
Type of crime: federal crime with a long mandatory sentence
Average prison sentence: minimum 5 years for Schedule I and II controlled substances. Can reach 20 years if a person was seriously hurt in the process.
Fines: up to $5 million
Poverty often leads to drug smuggling, particularly in low-income communities.
For many offenders, it is the fastest and easiest way to make up for the financial losses.
According to experts, the DEA puts an extra effort on Mexican drug cartels who are the greatest offenders.
This is not just because they control a massive segment of drug smuggling in the United States but also because they are also responsible for most of the distribution of drugs in the area.
9. Armed Robbery
Type of crime: An aggravated form of theft
Average prison sentence: 9 years or more
Fines: from $750 to $150,000
Robberies are a relatively common occurrence, with the highest rates registered in the District of Columbia.
Most offenders use a handgun to carry out the crime.
The crime involves the use of a lethal weapon to threaten or intimidate a victim. Sometimes with the intention to physically harm them.
10. Hit and Run
Type of crime: Felony
Average prison sentence: 30 days to 1 year for injuries. 5 to 20 years for deaths or serious harm.
Fines: $100 to $5,000 | $1,000 to $10,000
The main factors of a hit and run involve a driver who caused a car crash but didn’t stop at the scene of the crash. They don’t offer to help the victim or anyone injured in the incident, nor do they leave their personal information.
When faced with unpleasant consequences, drivers flee. This is an emotional reaction that helps them avoid the situation.
Countless drivers might also be under the influence when driving. This means they have no other way to get out of the situation. So, they thought that the easiest solution was to run away.
There are two types of hit and run. One is injury-related or death-related, and the other is property damage only.
Type of crime: Homicide with malice aforethought
Average prison sentence: 25 years to life
The pre-planned killing of a person is known as murder.
The killer plans and calculates strategies of how to carry out the crime before taking the life of the victim. The killing is intentional, not reckless behavior or the result of an accident.
What is the difference between white-collar and blue-collar crime?
Here’s the difference:
- Blue-collar crimes are crimes fuelled by emotions and passion. They are calculated and are meant to injure or damage property or people.
- White-collar crimes are predominantly non-violent and are often called “paper crimes.” They include embezzlement, forgery, fraud, etc.
Another main noticeable difference between white and blue-collar crimes is social status (which is where the types of crimes got their names).
Blue-collar crimes are often committed by individuals who live in poverty-stricken areas. White-collar crimes, on the other hand, are often done by someone in the higher social class and are well-paid.
Of course, that doesn’t always have to be the case. Someone from a higher social status can still commit a hit and run, for example.
What is a green-collar crime?
Green-collar crime is a crime committed against wildlife and the environment. The crime involves the destruction or illegal deforestation, not just of forests, but homes to endangered species and entire ecosystems.
In some areas, these crimes are heavily punished.
Sometimes these crimes may not be forbidden by law thanks to big money lobbying governments and therefore are not punishable as criminal offenses. These crimes happen on a regular basis.
Other than deforestation, there are poaching and pollution, which can be viewed as green-collar crimes.
What is a black-collar crime?
Black-collar crimes include crimes that are covered by the Church or can refer to priests who have carried out crimes.
The problem with this crime is that religious members or leaders of the clergy tend to cover up the crime in order to avoid exposing themselves. They want to avoid judgment. That’s why cases such as these can go unnoticed.
According to reports, around 11,000 allegations were made against more than 4,300 priests in the United States. This number covers roughly 4% of the priests who served during the period of 1950 to 2002 survey.
Some of the priests evaluated had one allegation made against them, while others had 10 or more.
Because of the many different crimes that can happen, crimes have been divided into various terms for better organization. These classifications can help you better understand the impact they can have.
Blue-collar crimes are often carried out by people in low-income families. These people are looking for ways to make a living, often resulting in theft or violence. Blue-collar crime is very different than white-collar crime. It’s relatively easy to understand and unravel. Whereas White-collar crime takes a while to penalize and understand. That’s because the people go through great lengths to cover their tracks and remain unpunished.
Now that you know the differences between the two, you will realize the kind of effect they can have on our society. The examples listed in this guideline can give you a quick look into the most prevalent blue-collar crimes in the United States.
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.