Crime and criminal damage is costing small businesses €1.5bn annually — a figure which has increased by almost 60% in the past five years.
A new survey, conducted by small firms’ lobby group Isme, shows 70% of SMEs believe the level of crime carried out on firms is on the increase. They are now calling for tougher court sentencing and an increased garda presence.
According to the survey, the direct cost of crime against small businesses amounted to €1.455bn in the past 12 months.
This figure, however, does not take into account the indirect costs — such as poor staff morale, disruption to business and re-location.
One third of respondents said they had been the victim of crime last year; with the construction and retail sector most affected.
Dublin, Ulster and the wider Leinster area were the main regional areas hit.
Burglary ranked as the highest measured crime but it was closely followed by robbery and vandalism.
Only 3% of companies said they still had confidence in the judicial system, with three quarters calling for increased garda numbers and nearly 70% wanting to see increased CCTV coverage in town centres.
The survey also suggests one of the main reasons why the full extent, impact and cost of crime against firms is not properly recorded, is because many SMEs do not report crime to the gardaí.
Isme says there is a perception amongst SMEs that crimes against their businesses are not viewed as real crime and, therefore, are not taken seriously.
Isme’s chief executive Mark Fielding said the figures highlight the need for a “robust crime reduction strategy”.
“Business owners will continue to postpone, or cancel, investment in their company until sufficient action is taken against the perpetrators of business crime.
“Small businesses need action now, in terms of enforcement and a more visible presence of gardaí on our streets,” he said.
“Small businesses 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.”
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