AN estimated one in four small businesses in the east of England have been the victims of traditional crime, new data has revealed.

Figures put together by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) show 28 per cent of small firms in Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire have been on the receiving end of thefts, criminal damage or assault.

The data also reveals 18 per cent have been hit by some form of cybercrime such as phishing, malware and data theft.

FSB, which represents small and medium sized firms across the UK, is now calling on the Government to tackle crime in the business industry - which it says costs a combined £17 billion each year.

Development Manager, Simona Daniel said: “These figures show the immense pressure that small firms are under on a day to day basis and the hugely damaging effect of business crime on UK productivity.

“These are uncertain times for all firms and with ever-increasing costs, business crime is a problem that is devastating firms across the country.

“Small firms are crying out for help from the Government and from the police. Of those smaller businesses that experience at least one business crime just over one fifth did not report an impactful crime to any authorities.

“The availability of more police officers and resources is a critical step in ensuring that crimes are both prevented and subsequently investigated.

“This sort of action will not only benefit small businesses but the wider economy and the country as a whole.”

FSB says it welcomes the Government’s recent announcement that it plans to bolster policing numbers throughout the UK by 20,000. However, it says an additional 85,600 officers will be needed to prevent small businesses being targeted by crooks.

The data released by the federation shows 7.7 million crimes are committed against small businesses every year.