By Daniel Hunter

The latest Business Crime Index from AXA, one of the UK’s largest business insurers, shows levels of crime committed against businesses in the UK have grown by 16% in the worst hit areas, while across the UK the cost of theft has increased significantly alongside a rise in the use of violence.

The findings, taken from AXA’s business insurance claims records to end May 2012, suggest that the riots of last summer contributed to an overall 3% increase in the level of crimes against businesses during the last twelve months.

However, riots aside, the increase reflects a general and continuing upward trend of crime against business in the last two years with a 3% increase also recorded for the previous year. In the top ten worst affected postcode areas of the country (see list below) the rise in crime rates over the last year has been 16%.

AXA estimates the total cost of business crime runs into several hundred million pounds with many businesses unable to claim back costs due to insufficient insurance provisions.

Types of Crime

The most common crime committed against business is theft accounting for around 74% of the total volume. And while numbers of thefts have risen only slightly over the last twelve months there has been a significant rise of 6% in the average value of theft claims to just under £4000. The number of thefts involving force or violence has also increased by around 6%.

AXA, which insures around 25% of the UK’s SMEs, revealed that, aside from riot claims, arson was the crime that saw the biggest rise last year with around 10% more cases while malicious damage claims against businesses dropped by around 10%.

“In a continued period of recession it is no surprise to see business crime levels rising, however what is most alarming for business owners is the increase in levels of violence associated with theft," Douglas Barnett, Head of Customer Risk Management, from AXA said.

"This, coupled with the increase in value of the average theft suggests a more 'determined' than 'opportunistic' thief is emerging during hard financial times.

“We would urge all businesses to do what they can to reduce the risk of becoming a victim — a big loss can be devastating for small businesses in both financial and emotional terms.”

The UK’s Business Crime Hotspots

When looking at geographical spread the table below shows the places with the highest rates of business crime across the UK in the 2011/2012 period and the twelve months prior to this.

- Halifax was in at number one this year after experiencing the second highest climb in crime rates in the UK over the last twelve months. Its position in 2010/11 was 57.

- Other newcomers in the top ten for 2012 are Luton, Doncaster and Bolton while Coventry, Derby, Milton Keynes and Lincoln have dropped out of the top spots since 2011.

- In terms of actual numbers of crimes against businesses, South West London is top followed by Leeds and Birmingham. But as overall numbers of business are also much higher in these areas, relative rates are lower keeping them out of the top ten.

- The postcode area with the biggest rise in crime rates was Sutton, with numbers of crime up by 140%, taking them to 19th place overall in the UK.

- The postcode area with the biggest significant fall in overall crime was Kilmarnock where numbers dropped by 42%.

“Geographically the areas that feature strongly in our top ten show a close match to areas of the country that have been hit hard by the recession. It is a sad fact of life that in hard times, some people will turn to crime,” Barnett concluded.

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