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13 September 2010

Small Businesses Call For A Fresh Look At Tackling Crime

Reference number: PAM 13/9/10


Small Businesses Call For A Fresh Look At Tackling Crime


Over the past year more than two-thirds of small businesses have been a victim of crime costing them up to £3,000, according to a report by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).


More than two-thirds (64%) of small firms have had a crime against their businesses costing each on average £2,900 and worryingly, more than a third (39%) of small firms do not report such crimes – showing that not much has improved over the past two years.


The report, ‘Localism and tackling crimes against business'', statistically shows some of the reasons why small firms have not been reporting crime: nearly half (46%) said they didn''t think it would achieve anything, a third (34%) thought the police would not be able to succeed in prosecution and a quarter (25%) said they thought the police just would not be interested.


The FSB in Wales said they were looking to build on the existing E-crime Unit by expanding the service to include other elements of business crime through the Business Safety Wales project, and that this should not be put on hold due to budget cuts, as it was now more important than ever.


FSB Welsh Policy Chair, Janet Jones, said: "Small businesses are the heart of our local communities, and a crime against a small firm is not just an attack against that business but it affects staff and has repercussions on the wider community. With two-thirds of businesses still a victim of crime, it the Government needs to step up and engage with this important sector of the community.


"It is paramount that the Government sets out the right local agenda to protect these vital firms that are currently losing up to £3,000 a year to crime. We cannot watch small businesses being repeatedly victimised and as a result forced to close. Businesses need to be encouraged to report crime as soon as it happens.


"Crimes against small businesses hit hard.  The negative impact on local communities across the country should not be underestimated. Many small businesses are run by members of the local community so it is important that those communities and small businesses themselves have confidence that the police are willing to act when crimes are reported.


"We would encourage any small business to work with their local police authority if they feel they are not getting the policing service they deserve. Police authorities are committed to working to ensure that small businesses are supported and protected from crime at all times," she said.


With small firms having such little confidence in the police and justice system, the FSB is calling for effective action to be taken to improve the response to businesses affected by crime and prevent small businesses from being repeatedly attacked and in some cases forced to close.


In Wales, the FSB wants to see a Business Crime Centre established to look at issues such as:


  • An active campaign to encourage businesses to report every crime every time;
  • Designated Police Officers allocated to concentrate on crime against business;
  • Coordination of existing work, such as the Welsh Assembly Government E-Crime Unit and Wales Against Business Crime forum;
  • Create one trusted source for businesses to access information regarding advice, through a Wales Business Crime Unit Website and events;
  • Putting together a clear definition and recording system for these types of crimes;
  • Working with police forces on improved training when dealing with crime against business to improve their understanding of the consequences and increase sensitivity towards the SME owners and staff affected.


FSB spokesman Russell Lawson said: "The true extent of business crime is not reflected in official figures as many firms have effectively opted out of the criminal justice system.


"Many believe that reporting crime will achieve nothing, feeling that police would not be able to catch the criminals, and other do not reporting crimes to keep their insurance premiums from rising.


"Businesses also state that one of the barriers to reporting crime is that the process is too time consuming.


"Most small businesses do not have a maintenance department. Therefore, the owner will be responsible for dealing with the aftermath of any crime. Any time that the owner spends on this is time spent away from the business and recovering lost profits.


"To encourage the reporting of crime, particularly petty crime such as graffiti or shoplifting, businesses must be able to provide the information to police through a variety of different mediums, and with minimum bureaucracy.


"There is a perception among business owners that the UK is experiencing a crime epidemic and that no one cares.


"This is hardly surprising when business crime is not one of the police''s performance standard indicators, and, as a result, it misses out on vital funding, such as when planning regulations often prevent businesses from installing crime prevention measures such as metal shutters and CCTV, and when businesses that invest in these measures are stung with business rate bill increases as a result.


"Crimes against business are not given a high priority because they are often viewed as ‘victimless''.


"But crimes can be devastating for a small firm and its employees. It causes disruption and anxiety in the workplace while scarce financial resources are wasted through the after-effects of crime, limiting future growth," he said.