Isme: Crimes against small businesses cost €1.8bn annually

Wide -ranging survey reveals shops most affected, through theft and vandalism

A survey of small and medium-sized businesses has estimated that crimes against business cost them €1.83 billion annually.

The study by the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (Isme), found that 31 per cent of Ireland’s 245,000 SMEs were affected by crime in the last year, with an average direct cost of €6,570, a total of €499 million.

Each of the 245,000 businesses, it found, spends an average of €5,428 on crime prevention measures, a total of €1.33 billion.

The number of businesses directly affected by crime is down 5 per cent when compared with the previous year’s survey, Isme said. Almost half of businesses in Dublin city reported crime, with 36 per cent in Dublin county and 19 per cent in Munster. Of those affected, 45 per cent experienced more than two crimes.

Retail businesses were most affected, followed by construction and distribution businesses. Almost a third of incidents were theft by outsiders, with 27 per cent of incidents related to vandalism. About 62 per cent of respondents were not covered by insurance, with about a fifth of businesses electing not to report incidents to An Garda Síochána.

The survey indicated a low take-up of services provided by the Crime Prevention Office, with Dublin businesses most likely to use it.

National forum on crime

Isme has made 11 recommendations for reducing the level of crimes against businesses, including measures to properly categorise and define incidents, so trends can be better measured and analysed. The group also suggested a national forum on crime to propose solutions and share information, comprising members from the Garda, politicians and the business community. The association also called for greater closed circuit television (CCTV) surveillance and increased numbers of gardaí. It also called for changes to data protection rules to allow businesses share CCTV.

"The reduction of business crime is fundamental to business prosperity and is not being prioritised by government," said Mark Fielding, the chief executive of Isme. He also claimed businesses have a "total lack of faith" in the criminal justice system.

“Crime against business is often seen as victimless but it has a very real impact on SMEs and their employees. SMEs are particularly vulnerable to business crime as they lack scale and therefore they experience greater difficulty in absorbing the direct and indirect costs of crime,” he said.

Mark Paul

Mark Paul

Mark Paul is Business Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Caveat column

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