A new joint strategy has been launched by the Staffordshire Commissioner’s Office (SCO), Staffordshire Police and the Local Enterprise Partnership to simplify the ‘confusing minefield’ of support available for business crime victims in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent.
Networks of organisations exist at local, regional, and national levels to respond to crimes against businesses, but due to the specialist nature of these crimes, processes have historically been complicated and confusing for victims to follow.
This new strategy is designed to translate this complexity into a clear, coherent offer for local businesses, by increasing communication and accessibility through a joined-up partnership approach to tackling business crime in the region.
It will drive an action plan, led by the Deputy Staffordshire Commissioner, which will coordinate efforts across the range of local partners delivering services to our business communities, including Staffordshire Police, the Chambers of Commerce, Partnerships Against Business Crime in Staffordshire (PABCIS) and the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, holding partners to account for how these services are delivered.
The strategy is backed by extensive research by Staffordshire University, commissioned by the SCO last September, into the experiences of a wide range of small business owners.
It revealed that these businesses often felt unheard, under-recognised and under-supported in discussions about the impact of business crime, which tended to focus on larger retailers and the night-time economy.
They were concerned about the impact anti-social behaviour had on footfall; illegitimate businesses undercutting them and taking their customers; and a perceived lack of neighbourhood policing, especially in rural areas, which left business owners feeling isolated and unsupported.
One retailer who took part in the research commented: “I employ people and pay wages. I pay my rates and taxes. Why should it be a confusing minefield to try and report something that costs me time and effort?”
Deputy Staffordshire Commissioner Sue Arnold, herself a business owner, has long championed the needs of the business community as a vital part of the region’s prosperity.
In 2013, Mrs Arnold led on the development of the Business Crime Matters strategy, on behalf of the Commissioner, designed to make Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent a safer place to do business.
As a result of the strategy, a range of initiatives were commissioned, including a Business Crime Support Service delivered by Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce, business crime alerts via the Smart Alert system and free Cyber Champions in the Workplace training to help businesses stay one step ahead of online fraudsters.
This new strategy builds on the work already underway to reduce business crime and help businesses feel safe in Staffordshire, which in turn will support the growth of the local economy.
Mrs Arnold said: ‘Nationally, the response to victims of business crime is fragmented and disconnected, and we know that businesses often struggle to navigate the system after suffering a business crime.
‘Business owners tell us there are still too many siloes, locally, regionally and nationally, with different levels of response and support available depending on the way crimes are categorised in narrow themes such as cyber, fraud or rural.
‘They feel discussions about business crime are largely framed around the night-time economy or larger retail businesses, and the voices of SMEs are rarely heard. This strategy is underpinned by research which focused on hearing those voices, to give them a say in how we tackle the issues that matter to them.’
Assistant Chief Constable Scott Green said: ‘We are excited about the launch of this strategy and the opportunity it will bring to forge stronger relationships with business owners, who are such an important part of our neighbourhoods. We are committed to tackling business crime and a key part of this will be listening to business owners about their concerns and understanding the impact such crime has on them, their workforce and the county.
‘Working closely with the Commissioner’s Office and the Local Enterprise Partnership should provide an excellent platform for us to tackle this type of crime together. I hope that businesses will feel reassured as we prioritise this crime type and move forwards with clearer ways to report crime and access to support and prevention advice.
‘We are committed to making Staffordshire a safe place to live and work and we will continue to target those responsible for business crime and the damage it causes our communities.’
Alun Rogers, chair of Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire LEP, said: ‘The LEP is here to ensure businesses across Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire are supported to grow and thrive, and central to this is creating a safe environment across the community. Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent is a great place to set up and grow a business. The home of Britain’s billion pound start-ups, it is a place where innovation and creativity drive business growth with a talent pool that is growing and fit for business needs.
‘This Business Crime Survey will first and foremost help simplify the landscape for business owners who find themselves the victim of crime. It will also help us create an even safer place where businesses have the confidence to grow, people want to live, work and play and investors want to relocate.’
To read the Business Crime Strategy, and accompanying research by Staffordshire University, visit: https://staffordshire-pfcc.gov.uk/initiatives/business-crime-matters/