A new report from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has revealed the true extent of crime and its impact on businesses in the south west.

The report found that in the south west, almost a third (32%) of small firms have been the victim of a traditional crime such as theft, criminal damage and assault. Meanwhile around 23% of small firms in the region have been hit by some form of cybercrime including phishing, malware and data theft.

FSB is calling on the Government to tackle crime against small businesses as a priority and help to plug the £17 billion that is being lost in the economy every year as a result.

Central to this is the hiring of new police officers which is crucial to tackling business crime in England and Wales along with making sure Police and Crime Commissioners give it the priority it deserves.

As part of the new research, it’s been found that, in the previous two years, almost half of small firms in England and Wales have been the victim of crime, which equates to around 2.5 million smaller businesses. FSB data suggests there are around 7.7 million crimes are committed against smaller firms each year.

Reacting to these statistics, Ann Vandermeulen, FSB development manager for Cornwall, said: “These figures show the immense pressure that small firms are under on a day to day basis and the hugely damaging effect of business crime on UK productivity.

“These are uncertain times for all firms and with ever-increasing costs, business crime is a problem that is devastating firms across the country.

“On average, those businesses affected by traditional (non-cyber) crime in England and Wales have suffered costs of around £14k over the previous two years. This is money that many small firms simply cannot afford to fork out.

“Small firms are crying out for help from the Government and from the police. Of those smaller businesses that experience at least one business crime just over one fifth did not report an impactful crime to any authorities. The most common reason given for this was a lack of confidence in the police, so it’s time that the new administration increases the capacity and capability of police forces in England and Wales.

“Over the next five years, we want to see progress towards around an additional 85,600 police officers hired which can be used to tackle some of the criminal acts that are costing businesses billions every year. The announcement of an additional 20,000 extra police officers is a step in the right direction but much more needs to be done.

“The availability of more police officers and resources is a critical step in ensuring that crimes are both prevented and subsequently investigated.

“This sort of action will not only benefit small businesses but the wider economy and the country as a whole.”