If you are a retailer reading this article in Wales, it may come as a surprise that your store is located in the safest area of the country.
According to the British Retail Consortium's regional crime figures, Wales suffers least from retail crime.
The BRC crime index, based on the number of crimes against retailers against the number of shops per household in each area, gives Wales a retail crime index of 64. This is well below the UK 'norm' of 100 and dramatically less than the area with the highest level of retail crime, London, which has an index of 160.
Yorks and Humber tops the list
of regions worst hit outside of the capital, at 120. The statistics also show that, outside London, the highest occurrence of crime against retail outlets takes place from the Midlands northwards.
The figures are certainly a shock to Bhoo Patel, owner of Philog Stores in Cardiff. Bhoo says that while instances of theft and shoplifting have dropped in his store, anti-social behaviour is on the rise and it's having a severe impact on the local community.
"Alcohol plays a big role in fuelling some of the anti-social behaviour here," explains Bhoo. "Most of the retailers are very good and won't sell it to young people, or groups who are already drunk. However, there are one or two who will break the rules to get their tills ringing."
He says that Cardiff, like all big cities, has areas which are worse than others and where crime is more of an issue, but worryingly he can see the impact of alcohol-related crime growing across the city.
He says: "There is a bus shelter opposite my store which has been smashed up 10 times in the past year, along with car windows. When I asked the police to look into it they explained that they did not have the necessary resources."
He suggests instead that retailers get together to tackle such issues. "There used to be a group of traders who frequently met with the police, and it was very effective. There was a problem with shoplifting gangs and through the group we were able to get to grips with it," he claims. "The police cannot always be there so it is important that we work together to resolve these problems."
Sin city
It will come as no surprise to most that London tops the list as the crime capital. As well as being the most densely populated, many of its inner-city areas suffer from the greatest deprivation as well. According to Appean Sharma, owner of a Costcutter store in the South London area of Elton, crime is continuing to grow in the city.
"Crime has always been around and will continue," he warns. "I am not trying to make excuses for them, but kids in the inner city have nothing to do and will often turn to crime as a result."
Appean has his own way of dealing with crime against his business and it usually involves dealing with it close to home.
"I have been here for so long that I know these kids' dads and grand-parents, so I can usually take up any issues with them," he confirms. "By showing that you are one of them and a key member of the community, you can usually sort out most issues."
That is not to say that Appean is a soft touch. Far from it, in fact. Some members of his local community have been barred from his premises for the past 15 years. He has also invested £30,000 in a state-of-the-art CCTV system.
"Thieves will always attack when you are busy, so it is key to get the necessary evidence. I will generally take the evidence to the person involved and try to resolve things that way, but sometimes you just have to go the police," he explains.
The publication of the figures has prompted the BRC to launch a campaign to raise the profile of retail crime among the government, police and the public. The result is the 'Stop Crime Against Retailers' campaign.
However, according to BRC crime policy executive Michael Gallagher, any efforts to raise awareness of the impact of crime and the need to tackle it have been hampered by the recent upheavals at the Home Office, involving both changes of minister and policy priority. These have resulted in retail crime slipping down the agenda.
Gallagher says: "The changes have certainly had an impact on our campaign, which has lost momentum with all the comings and goings. For us, the issue remains just as pressing. With almost half of the surveys for this year's Retail Crime Survey already processed, it doesn't look as if there will be any major reduction in crime levels from last year."
He is supported in his views by Mike Schuck, chief executive of Action Against Business Crime. He argues that a lack of government resources to tackle retail crime is working against businesses who are trying to rid themselves of crime.
Schuck argues: "Businesses can't do it all on their own. There needs to be partnerships involving businesses, the Home Office and police."
no back-up
Schuck makes the point that in 2003, the Home Office employed 11 business crime advisors - 10 for the various regions of England and one for Wales. In 2006 there are none.
He says that the situation is much better in Scotland, where the Scottish Business Crime Centre operates with 11 staff.
Without this support, he says, retailers must take it upon themselves to tackle business crime in their areas. Action Against Business Crime has overseen the creation of more than 200 crime prevention partnerships across the UK and Schuck urges as many retailers as possible to get involved in a local scheme or start one of their own.
He warns: "Now more than ever it is crucial that all small businesses get involved in this kind of scheme. In many smaller towns and villages throughout the country small stores and independents can make up the bulk of a scheme's membership. It is often small retailers who can be worst hit by crime, so it is worth tackling it before it happens."