By Daniel Hunter

AXA’s annual Business Crime Index, which monitors the levels of crime committed against UK businesses, shows that after two years of rising crime rates, the last twelve months have seen a significant fall in both the number and average cost of business crime.

During 2013, all categories of crime monitored by the AXA index saw a fall in levels aside from deception and trickery which recorded a very slight increase.

The most common crime committed against business remained as theft in 2013, accounting for around three quarters of all crime. However the rate of thefts has dropped by 11 per cent year on year while those involving violence has dropped by 10 per cent. The average cost of theft claims remains similar to 2012 at just under £4,000.

But while average theft costs were steady, a 13 per cent drop in the overall cost of crime was seen as a result of the average costs for arson and malicious damage both dropping by over 25 per cent.

In addition the riot claims, seen in summer 2011 and which accounted for some of the rises in crime and larger average costs last year, have not been repeated.

Research carried out by AXA among business owners suggests that their attitude reflects the current situation with 85 per cent stating that they are either less worried or no more worried about the threat of crime to their business than a year ago.

Despite the overall picture being positive there are still some areas of the country experiencing rising crime levels or levels of crime well above average. The table below shows the postcode regions with the highest rates of business crime across the UK for each of the last three years.

This year, 2013, as in previous years, many of those in the top ten are a reflection of areas in the country that have been hit hard by the effects of recession.

In 2013 Wigan has risen from eighth to first place with a rise in rates of crime claims of 14 per cent

· Meanwhile last year’s number one, Halifax, has dropped to 42nd place with a 56 per cent reduction in rates of crime

· Seven of those in this year’s top ten were new entries with Hull in at number two with the highest rise in crime rates across the country at 100 per cent. Other newcomers this year were Bradford, Newport, Wakefield, Salisbury, Sheffield and Blackpool

· Encouragingly three postcode regions in the 2013 top ten actually saw an improvement in rates of crime — Sheffield, Telford and Oldham — although overall rates were still among the highest in the country

· The postcode areas with the biggest decrease in crime rates were Newcastle and Exeter with drops of 66% and 61% respectively

· In terms of actual numbers of crimes against businesses, West London, South West London and North West London take the top spots. But as overall numbers of businesses are also much higher, relative rates are lower keeping them well out of the top ten

· The postcode areas of some of the UK’s larger cities saw the biggest numbers of arson claims with Liverpool and Glasgow taking top spots while London, Leeds and Birmingham had the highest incidents of malicious damage

“It’s difficult to know exactly why there has been a drop in crime this year. It could be a sign of economic recovery, an indication of better prevention measures, or a combination of both," Douglas Barnett, head of customer risk management at AXA said.

“But whatever the reason, these figures are extremely encouraging not just for us as a business insurer but for the business community as a whole.

“The last few years have been tough for many and we know from our customers that becoming a victim of crime can be very hard to bounce back from, both financially and emotionally. So to see the number and value of crimes decreasing is a real boost to UK business.

“That said, complacency must not be allowed to reverse this trend and we would urge businesses wherever they are based, to do what they can to reduce the risk of becoming a victim in the future.”

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