Shocking figures have revealed how North East businesses are targeted by criminals more than any region in the country.
The Home Office figures released yesterday show high rates of theft and vandalism, but also fraud, assault and threats against workers.
Business groups last night urged police forces to move swiftly and warned that crime is hampering growth and job creation in the region.
Northumbria police and crime commissioner Vera Baird said the figures were of “real concern” and said she would be urgently reviewing the situation.
For every 1,000 business premises in the North East there were 18,315 incidents of theft, while those for vandalism (942 incidents per 1,000 premises) and assaults and threats (2,415) were also the highest in the country.
The overall rate of crime against businesses, with retail units and wholesalers hit the hardest, averaged almost 24,000 incidents per 1,000 premises.
Ted Salmon, Federation of Small Business North East regional chairman, said: “Crime against business makes up a quarter of overall crime in some areas and we need to see tougher action on this. It is clear from the figures that retailers and wholesalers are suffering the most from incidents of crime.
“We would like to see the three Police and Crime Commissioners take a strong stance in tackling this across the North East.
“ It is clear from the statistics that business crime is costing firms thousands of pounds in losses.
“This will clearly be having an impact on the confidence of small businesses which will have an impact on job creation and hamper economic growth.
“For those in the retail secto, which is already battling against low consumer confidence and less money being spent, this is the last thing they need to be tackling.
“We need to see tougher action to help small businesses who are affected by this and for business crime to be treated seriously.”
Robert Downes, spokesman for the Forum of Private Business in the North East, added: “An area or region synonymous with crime is hardly likely to attract businesses in. That’s not good for anyone.
“Authorities in the North East will doubtless be keen to look with fresh eyes at just what the issues are and why business crime in the region seems to be above average.
“All crimes against business cost the owner, and ultimately the end consumer in higher prices.”
And NECC director of policy Ross Smith said: “Protecting a business is incredibly expensive, but we would always urge members to take the potential for crime seriously and do all they can to protect themselves. However, it must be said that crime in general is traditionally at the bottom of the list of concerns brought to us by members in the Quarterly Economic Survey and has been so for the last few years.”
Vera Baird, Police and Crime Commissioner for the Northumbria force area, has ordered an emergency meeting with police, members of the North East Chamber of Commerce and the Institute of Directors over the issue.
She said: “If we’re doing things wrong then they need getting right. Statistics for crime against businesses are down on the whole – it’s just that we have come to the top of the table because our figures haven’t gone down as much as other regions.
“I think this is of real concern because of all the regions this one is the one that’s most highly under pressure from austerity so it urgently needs looking into.
“If our businesses can’t thrive, if they are undermined and lose viability, then it’s an urgent issue.”