Disturbing new figures have cast fresh light on the menace of business crime.
Over the past five years, some 2,000 small firms claim to have been forced out of business as a result of suffering at the hands of criminals.
And the new research from Axa revealed that over the same period, around 34,000 small businesses said being a victim of crime had forced them to close their operations for a period of time.
For some 16,000 businesses, criminal activity was so severe they decided to move premises; while some 30,000 small businesses claimed their staff have been injured or traumatised as a result of criminal activity.
Neil Mercier, property insurance manager at AXA, said: "When discussing the impact of crime on businesses, it is easy to just focus on the immediate cost of replacing stolen items or repairing any damage caused.
"However, the real effect of crime is much greater than this and businesses need to review their risk management programmes to ensure that they are reducing the chances of falling victim to criminals."
He said this message seems to be getting through with the latest research for the third quarter of 2004 finding a 15.8 per cent fall in the frequency of crimes compared to the second quarter of 2004.
Some 439,000 small companies claim to have incurred costs improving security or repairing damage, while 272,000 have had to waste time dealing with problems caused by criminal activity as opposed to running their businesses.
The British Chambers of Commerce's director general, David Frost, said: "The Government must continue to work with the business community if we are to tackle the issue and the agenda must now switch from focusing primarily on the retail sector to the problems faced by all types of businesses."