CRIME committed against UK businesses rose again last year.
According to the latest Business Crime Index from AXA, one of the country’s biggest providers of business insurance, crime against business was up by 3% for the second year running in the year to May, with levels soaring 16% in the most badly affected areas.
Suggesting that the cost of crime against business runs into hundreds of millions of pounds, the AXA survey found that the value of the average theft – the most common crime committed against business – rose by 6%; violent thefts were up 6% and arson rates by 10%.
While the London riots of last summer were a major factor in last year’s results, the statistics were said to reflect a general and continuing rise of crime against business in the last two years, much of which is linked to recession.
In the licensed trade, operators and security experts have been wary of the possibility of crime rising in and around premises since the economy slipped into recession in 2008.
And one of the biggest threats they fear is not from outside parties, but licensed trade staff themselves.
“There’s been no noticeable increase in actual crime in or against licensed premises,” said Eddie Tobin, owner of steward supplier Security Scotland and a member of the Strathclyde Crimestoppers’ committee.
“But I would say there’s been an increase in staff stealing from the till, not only because money is short, but also because people want things more than they used to.
“It’s not sufficient to have a mobile phone, people have to have the latest iPhone, or they have to have the best trainers. The pressure leads them to go down roads they might not have gone down before.”
Club owner Donald MacLeod, who runs The Garage in Glasgow and Aberdeen, expressed a similar sentiment.
While as a business owner he is always wary of major crime taking place in the premises, he said he’s keenly aware that more petty crime is likely to take place at present, whether committed by staff or customers.
“Within premises you’re always on your guard against, God forbid, things like armed robbery,” he said.
“But you’re also looking at your own staff and hoping they are not thieving. This is where CCTV can become a vital tool. Thankfully [crime related to] drugs has abated. The main threats are assaults and things like mobile phone theft: we have seen organised teams targeting handbags for mobile phones, anything that’s expensive that can be quickly moved on.”
Although crime remains an ever-present danger to licensed venues, operators and security providers stress the industry has never been so equipped to deal with it.
They say a range of factors have coalesced to improve the safety of licensed premises for patrons and staff and afford greater protection to business owners, from the introduction of CCTV and regulation of door stewards, to award schemes like Best Bar None and improved co-operation between operators and the police and licensing authorities.
As such, MacLeod said serious crime in licensed premises has been steadily going down over recent years – even throughout the recession.
“Assaults are way down in licensed premises, in part because of CCTV and in part because we have better trained stewards and a multi-agency approach to it, particularly in Glasgow, and that works really well,” he said.
“We have digital radio set-ups with other clubs and the police; we have all the tools we need for quick and easy intervention, so we shouldn’t have problems.”
Tobin said the late-night industry deserves more credit than it receives for raising safety standards in licensed premises, though he concedes there remains a lingering perception among some consumers that it isn’t safe to go out in city centres at night.
“The trade should be commended for what it’s done,” he said. “Going out for a drink in major cities like Glasgow and Edinburgh is a safe thing to do inside licensed premises, and I think it’s fantastic. We’ve come so far.”
In this regard, Russel Kerr, MD of security firm SGL, said the contribution of mandatory door steward licensing, by the Security Industry Authority, can’t be underplayed.
“The regulation of the private security sector has undoubtedly fostered improved working relationships between door supervisors and the police,” he said. “Although it is difficult to judge whether this has helped reduce crime levels, I can say with confidence that great strides have been taken in the reporting of crimes, the quality of statements provided and [the] preservation of crime scenes.”