Worrying new figures show a 10 percent increase in crimes committed against businesses in 2008, along with an 18 percent rise in the cost of business crime.

AXA Insurance published the figures in its annual Business Crime Index. The report shows that robberies and hold-ups in businesses have increased by 33.3 percent from January to June, compared to the same period last year. Arson rose to 18.7 percent, while breaking and entering, the most common crime committed against businesses, increased by 14.9 percent.

Doug Barnett, AXA head of customer–risk management, said that things could get worse:

“The increase in business crime is likely to get worse as the economic downturn continues, particularly where prices for certain goods are increasing.”

The report also shows that crime costs have soared. With forcible and violet entry up by 9 percent, the costs to businesses rose by almost 90 percent to an average of £6,187. The average crime claim settlement reached £4,575, an increase of 7.5 percent. A single act of vandalism now costs a shop on average £2,144.

The figures also point out that the highest incidence of business crime takes place in cities. The UK crime capitol of 2008 is Derby, at 23.9 percent, followed closely by Nottingham at 23.1 percent, and Birmingham at 22.9 percent. London had the lowest proportion of crime related claims for the first half of the year at 14.3 percent, just ahead of Glasgow with 16.5 percent.

Croydon and Northampton in particular were flagged up as crime hotspots, with crime rates doubling in both areas.

Barnett advises small businesses to take daily steps to prevent crime.

“For example, if you’re vulnerable to arson or vandalism, think what you do with your rubbish and when it goes out. Don’t put it out the night before it is collected, or at least put it away from your premises.”

“Go for the simple steps first,” he concluded, adding that all businesses should plan what they should do if the worst happens.

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