The annual cost of crime to the country's small business sector is €1.5bn, according to a survey published today by the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises association (ISME).
ISME's National Crime Survey revealed that while the number of enterprises affected by crime has reduced slightly, the number of incidents and the costs of crime against business have increased in the last 12 months.
According to the survey, a third of SMEs have been the victim of crime in the last 12 months, while some 75% of affected enterprises experienced more than one instance of crime.
Meanwhile seven out of 10 business owners believe that crime levels are getting worse and a paltry 3% feel that the judicial system is effective.
Regionally, the highest incidence of crime was reported in Dublin County and Ulster (40% each) closely followed by Dublin City 39%, Rest of Leinster 33% and Connacht 19%.
Construction (61%) and the Retail (44%) sector were the areas of the business community most affected.
ISME called on the Government to prioritise business crime with tougher court sentencing and increased Garda presence.
“ Business crime has long been seen as a victimless crime, however it has a devastating effect on jobs, livelihoods and whole communities," said ISME Chief Executive Mark Fielding.
“Small business believe that the authorities, both legislature and judiciary, have ineffectively dealt with the scourge of business crime locally and nationally.
"A properly resourced Crime Prevention Office with specialists in business crime would reduce the €1.5bn bill that SMEs face annually in terms of direct crime costs and prevention.”
The survey attracted a response from 648 businesses.