Criminal activity is landing small businesses in the Irish Republic with a bill of €2bn a year, according to a survey, with the retail sector the worst affected.
The survey, from the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association, found that 75% of all retail outlets have been hit by theft, burglary or vandalism in the past 12 months.
One third of businesses do not report crimes because “they do not believe that those responsible will be caught”.
Burglary and theft are costing small businesses an average of €6,900 a year.
Another €7,400 is added through the indirect costs of crime prevention measures such as alarms, CCTV and security guards.
In response to the findings, the Chambers of Commerce of Ireland (CCI) has called on Michael McDowell, the justice minister, to allow businesses to pay for increased Garda patrols, as happens in the United States. CCI suggests that off-duty gardai could be deployed on security duty in retail outlets and also shopping centres in the run up to Christmas.
In the US, according to the CCI, off-duty police in uniform are available for hire to businesses and provide “a significant deterrent” to anti-social and criminal behaviour. “Privately hired security personnel do not have the same credibility or impact,” it says.
The scale of the crime problem for small shopkeepers was underlined earlier this year when Michael Gleeson, a Londis retailer, reported that his two outlets in Limerick city were being raided by thieves 20 times a week.
As a deterrent, he put on display pictures of suspected shoplifters being escorted from the premises by Gardai.
The pictures were taken by new CCTV systems that were installed on the premises - but at a cost of €90,000.