A survey conducted by the Small Firms Association and released earlier this week, shows that 51 per cent of businesses have been victims of crime on at least one occasion in the past year.
According to SFA Director, Patricia Callan “since our last survey the level of crime perpetrated against small business has increased by 11 per cent. The business community is under constant attack from planned professional criminality. There is an enormous psychological price being paid by business people as crime is now more organised, more professional, more ruthless and more pervasive. Violent crime remains a serious threat which 12 per cent of respondents have experienced, one-quarter of them away from the business premises.”
The sixth national small business crime survey shows that the costs associated with crime are increasing rapidly with costs incurred per single incident of crime ranging from €20 to €50,000, and the average cost per incident being €2,807.
There was a 14 per cent increase in capital expenditure by small businesses on security measures, which now averages €7,444 per company or a total investment of €1.73 billion per annum. In addition, the average cost per company of maintenance for security equipment averages €1,687 per annum or €393 million annually.
Ms Callan said that "a large part of the cost burden falls on retailers who are especially vulnerable to crime and find themselves spending large sums of money on security measures they can ill afford. The survey indicates that as crime is becoming more sophisticated, firms are putting more complex security systems in place. While the use of CCTV has decreased, the number of intruder alarm systems has increased to 76 per cent and electronic access control systems have risen to 26 per cent. Firms also use alternative security services such as mobile and static security patrols; guard dogs and key holding services.”
Of the 187 companies who responded to the survey, 51 per cent said their business had been a crime victim in the past year. 89 per cent of respondents were of the opinion that crime has increased or remained static. This may be influenced by the fact that 66 per cent of respondents were victims of crime on at least two or more occasions. Respondents were drawn from the manufacturing, services, distribution and retail sectors.
The major forms of crime cited were as follows: Criminal damage 16 per cent; theft of property 16 per cent; theft of stock 15 per cent; theft of cash 11 per cent; extortion 10 per cent; burglary 7 per cent; internal fraud 7 per cent; credit /cheque card 7 per cent; and armed robbery/syringe 2 per cent
Since the last survey, small firms have increasingly become the victims of a range of online crimes, including internet scams, identity fraud, phishing and data theft. The costs of these incidents ranged up to €6,000, with the average cost per incident being €2,250.
Commenting on the impact of crime and the low rate of convictions achieved in Ireland relative to other jurisdictions, Ms Callan said, “The small business community is under constant siege from planned, professional criminality and the conviction rates being achieved in Ireland fall far short of what is being achieved in other jurisdictions, particularly the UK.”
“The latest figures available from the Gardai show that the annualised number of headline cases reported to the Gardai was 101,659. The number of convictions achieved was 3,917. The figures for the previous year show the number of headline cases reported then was 103,360 which resulted in 4,411 convictions. From these figures it appears there is very little chance of Irish criminals ever being brought to justice, leaving the victims of crime in a sense of hopelessness and despair,” commented Callan.
The SFA is calling on the Government and the Gardai to address the concerns of small business. They recommend the setting up of a Specialised Business Unit within the Gardai dealing exclusively with all aspects of business crime.