A new study of 500 small and medium-sized business owners, commissioned by independent charity Victim Support and security firm ADT, found that businesses were being repeatedly targeted by criminals – causing them to lose up to 151 days of trading over the lifespan of the business and costing owners up to £25m, or £2,625 for each crime.
Some 27 per cent said they had been victims of burglary, 19 per cent of business owners were targeted by theft 20 times or more across the lifespan of their business and a fifth of small firms had suffered from vandalism.
Judy Mercer is the co-owner of Hamilton News, with three news agency shops in Belfast. As well as frequently being targeted by shoplifters, she recalled an attempted burglary in the early morning several months ago, when unidentified people attempted to break into her shop with a crowbar. “I saw the guys run off, but it was only when the police arrived that I realised they were running away from the front of our shop,” she explained.
While the burglars were unsuccessful, they still wrought £1,000 worth of damage, with both the door and frame needing to be replaced. “It’s the amount of money involved in putting everything back together again which is probably the biggest problem, because the insurance doesn’t cover everything,” she added. “It is all a hassle and takes weeks to recover from.”
The research indicated that the lasting impact of crime on both trade and staff morale was significant – 69 per cent of owners suffered emotional distress, an added unnecessary worry outside of the stressfulness of running a business. Financially, 42 per cent experienced lost income and 33 per cent became worried they would be targeted again as a result.
Colin and Zoe Clark purchased the ten bedroom Hilton Hotel in 2008. Three months after arriving, the hotel was broken into during the night, with four safes ripped from the wall. It caused £2,000 in damages, with money and a camera stolen too. Following that incident, the couple were burgled three further times.
Colin said: “The first time it happened it felt quite traumatic because it was the first time I had been a victim of crime. It’s like a personal attack on us because we were the new owners.”
The study also found 75 per cent of businesses didn’t have the necessary security precautions in place until after they had suffered commercial crime.
Gail Hunter, a spokeswoman at ADT, said: “This new research shows the shocking scale and impact that crime can have on small businesses and disappointingly, the figures show that there is a strong possibility that it could happen again.”
“Simple actions such as business security reviews help the business owner to understand the best crime prevention measures, especially as these needs change and evolve over time,” she advised.
ADT has joined forces with Victim Support to launch a new campaign to tackle burglary across England and Wales, running free crime prevention schemes for householders and business owners, while campaigning to ensure victims get justice in court.
Karen Froggatt, director at Victim Support, said: “Business crimes are not victimless – owners and staff often put their life and soul into their work. These crimes are taken personally and can have a devastating impact emotionally and financially on victims, just like any crime.”
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