Crime and Criminal Justice Research Findings No. 39Counting the cost:
Crime against business in Scotland
The public transport/taxis sub-sectors
John Burrows (MHB) and Dave Ingram (System Three Social Research)
While the Scottish Crime Survey routinely collects data about crimes against individuals and their households, there has never been any equivalent investigation of the impact of crime on Scotland's businesses. In November 1999, the Scottish Executive, in partnership with the Scottish Business Crime Centre, presented the findings of the first research enquiry into the extent, nature and costs of crime as it affects businesses in Scotland. The research was carried out to help develop the Business Crime Reduction Strategy for Scotland, the objective of which is "to reduce crime in Scotland to create a safe and secure trading environment in which businesses flourish". This summary forms part of a series of detailed analyses of sub-sectors found to experience the highest incidence of crime.
- across the 15 business sub-sectors surveyed in the course of the Scottish Business Crime Survey, public transport and taxi businesses experienced the second highest incidence rate, derived by calculating the total number of reported crimes across the targets at risk.
- about six in ten public transport and taxi businesses (62%) experienced crime during 1998. This is slightly higher than the rate for all the businesses surveyed (58%).
- on the other hand, businesses in this sub-sector that had experienced crime suffered, on average, 16 incidents in that time. This is extremely high in relation to other business sub-sectors and is largely attributable to a high number of violent incidents.
- crime is heavily targeted at a relatively small proportion of businesses: one in ten premises accounts for 69% of the total crime count amongst public transport and taxi businesses.
- the prevalence of crime - that is, the number of business premises affected - across this sub-sector is only slightly higher than for all the businesses surveyed, but the high number of crimes experienced by victims serves to increase incidence rates.
- a high proportion of cases of repeat victimisation (64%) occur within eight weeks of the preceding incident. This is higher than the average for all the businesses surveyed.
The Scottish Survey of Business Crime (SBC) research examined the experience of crime across five principal business sectors:
- wholesale and retail
- hotels and restaurants
- transport and telecommunications
These five business sectors account for some £24 billion turnover, at factor cost, or just under half (46%) of GDP in Scotland. In aggregate, they account for some 65,000 VAT-registered firms within Scotland and employ a workforce of about one million.
One of the principal findings of the overall survey was that, while there are differences in crime rates (in terms of crime prevalence and incidence) between sectors, analysis at the level of business sub-sector seemed to present a more precise indication of crime risk in terms of 'labels' that are more widely understood. For example, in the 'transport and telecommunications' sector, the incidence of crime against the 'public transport' sub-sector is more than eight times that experienced by businesses in the 'water and air transport' sub-sector.
The incidence of crime - that is the total number of crimes spread across all the targets at risk - is presented in Figure 1. This indicates that, across the 15 sub-sectors (or Standard Industrial Classification divisions) public transport and taxi businesses experienced the second highest incidence rate.
The transport/telecommunications sector comprises the freight haulage, public transport/taxis, water/air transport, post/communications and RAC/AA/travel organisations sub-sectors. In Scotland, this sector employs some 110,000 staff and has an annual turnover of roughly £6.5 billion. The public transport/taxis sub-sector accounts for roughly 800 business premises in Scotland.
Figure 1 - Incidence of crime
Crime risks for public transport and taxi businesses
One priority of the research was to consider in particular how many businesses experience crime at all (that is, crime prevalence), and how many crime incidents are experienced across all the business targets 'at risk' (that is, crime incidence). It concluded:
- 62% of the public transport and taxi businesses under review experienced crime during 1998. This figure is slightly higher than the prevalence rate for all the businesses surveyed (58%).
- 55% had experienced some form of property crime. Vandalism (affecting 25%) proved the most common property crime, but is only slightly more common than thefts of and from vehicles (affecting 22%). Break-ins affected 16%.
- more than one in four businesses in this sub-sector had experienced violent crime (28%, compared to 14% across all the businesses surveyed). Threats of violence represent the most common incidents. This sub-sector also reported the highest prevalence of actual and attempted robberies. These, nonetheless, remain rare events.
- exactly half of those businesses that fall victim to crime do so on more than one occasion - a very high figure, compared to other sub-sectors.
Figure 2 presents the proportion of non-victims and premises victimised on one, two or three and four or more occasions for businesses in the sub-sector under review, as well as for its parent sector (transport/telecommunications) and for all the businesses surveyed.
Figure 2 - Prevalence of all crime
- those public transport and taxi businesses which had experienced crime suffered, on average, 16 incidents. This is much higher than most other sub-sectors, with the average figure for all the businesses surveyed being 9.
- the types of crime most likely to be repeated were threats, frauds and employee thefts.
- crime is heavily concentrated in its impact: one in ten premises accounts for over two-thirds of the total crime count (69%).
- in terms of the overall incidence of crime against public transport and taxi businesses, the most common incidents are threats of violence, frauds and acts of vandalism (Figure 3).
Figure 3- Distribution of crime: public transport and taxi businesses
- by comparison with other businesses, the pattern of crime in this sub-sector is marked by the high levels of many types of crime. In descending order, the highest rates are for threats, frauds, thefts by employees, violent attacks, thefts of/from vehicles and robberies. Only incidents like breaks-ins and thefts by outsiders are comparatively rare (Figure 4).
Figure 4 - Types of crime to which public transport and taxi businesses are highly vulnerable
- it can be estimated that the 800 businesses in the sub-sector under review experienced some 7,350 incidents in 1998.
Patterns of repeat victimisation
The full report of the SBC indicated that, where victims could recall the time at which second or later offences of the same type occurred, most seemed to be repeated within a short period of time. Questions about the 'time lapse' between repeats were asked in respect of break-ins, vandalism and vehicle thefts. Overall, 55% of these incidents occurred within eight weeks of the preceding incident (when victims were able to recall the times). Moreover, a substantial minority (40%) believed the incidents were connected.
In respect of public transport and taxi firms:
- 64% of repeats, a higher proportion, occurred within eight weeks.
- only a third (33%) of businesses believed the repeat incidents they experienced were connected to one another.
Figure 5 - Time lapse between incidents
Other factors, beyond the type of business conducted, associated with crime risk
The results of the main survey, together with the lessons drawn from site visits and interviews with selected businesses, led to the findings that crime risks are affected by a variety of factors.
There are first those factors on which the survey was able to gather reliable data: these include the region in which businesses operate; the immediate surroundings in which businesses operate; the type of goods stored and manufactured and the hours worked by staff. It appears that some of these factors serve to increase risk in the public transport/taxi sub-sector, for example:
- staff operating these businesses tend to work long hours each day, as well as Saturdays and Sundays.
There is also a range of highly localised factors that can be significant in determining a business's vulnerability to crime. The survey was unable to gather data on these influences, although it was able to indicate that they can sometimes be crucial in affecting vulnerability.
Businesses like public transport or taxi firms are highly dependent on customer contact. For such businesses, vulnerability often seems to be linked to location, particularly the 'type of customer' they serve. At certain times, especially in the evenings or at night, of course, some customers may be under the influence of drink (or drugs).
The examination of these localised risk factors lends weight to the significance of considering 'opportunity' in the commission of crime, and in the value to be gained from adopting 'opportunity reduction' techniques.
The costs borne by public transport and taxi businesses as a result of crime
The costs of crime borne by businesses can arise in various forms, and be measured in different ways. One of the observations made in the main report of the SBC was that the different forms of crime to which business premises fall victim inflict widely different costs. Across the board, thefts of vehicles (at an average of £5,325 per incident), followed by frauds (at £5,142), incur the highest cost per incident. Thefts by 'outsiders' inflict the lowest.
For public transport and taxi businesses:
- thefts from vehicles are the most expensive incidents (costing an average of £5,411) , with break-ins coming second (at £3,347) and then acts of vandalism (at an average £1,935).
The full survey also reported that the average annual cost of 'witnessed' crime borne by the typical business surveyed (that is, both victims and non-victims) was some £2,300.
For public transport and taxi businesses:
- this figure is marginally more (at £2,447) largely attributable to the costs inflicted by thefts from vehicles. Figure 6 provides a full breakdown.
Figure 6 - Average cost of crime (victims and non-victims): public transport and taxi businesses
What public transport and taxi businesses currently do to prevent crime and the scope for partnership working
- Over 6 in 10 (62%) of the crime incidents experienced by businesses in this sub-sector came to the notice of the police. This figure represents a higher reporting level than that indicated by all the businesses surveyed (55%). The police are much more likely to be advised of incidents like break-ins, but only just over a third of all incidents involving violence come to their attention.
- like all Scottish businesses, those in the public transport and taxis sub sector invest in different types of security devices. The devices most often installed are intruder alarms, security lighting and different forms of special protection to doors and windows. But, in comparative terms, these devices are not used as widely as in other business sectors.
Figure 7 - Security devices in place: public transport and taxis sub sectors
- business premises, particularly those in sub-sectors most at risk, are well used to taking a variety of precautions to reduce crime risks. A good many of these precautions are difficult to implement amongst the public transport and taxis sub-sector, where a good deal of crime occurs away from fixed premises. They do however 'exclude specific people' (done by 52%, compared to 34% of all the businesses surveyed).
- a small proportion change their business practices to reduce risk: about one in ten have changed, or are considering changing, their business hours because of crime .
- about one in ten (8%) business premises in this sub-sector rate business break-ins as 'serious' in their area. Despite the high incidence rate experienced, this broadly mirrors the views of all the businesses surveyed, and the implication was drawn that business premises in Scotland do not regard crime as seriously as many of their counterparts elsewhere in the UK.
- a third of public transport/taxi businesses have experience of working in partnership with other organisations to prevent crime. This is exactly the same as for all the businesses surveyed.
- just over a half of public transport and taxi business (52%), however, indicated they would be interested in being involved in such schemes in the future. This is slightly lower than the figure for all the businesses surveyed (61%).
The Scottish Survey of Business Crime was primarily based on a computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) survey of 2,500 Scottish businesses. As a means of ensuring that these businesses would virtually all operate from business (as opposed to domestic) premises, the sample only included businesses with three or more staff. The sample was drawn from Dun and Bradstreet's business database. Estimates of the number of premises within each business sub-sector are based on the information held by Dun and Bradstreet and it is likely that these under-estimate the true figures.
Further methodological details are available in the full report on the results from the 1999 SBC, Counting the cost: Crime against business in Scotland, which may be purchased (price £10.00 per copy).
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