Over 50 percent of emerging and small businesses in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban experienced one or more incidents of crime in the past year.
This according to the results of a survey, which was released on Wednesday, undertaken by Strategic Business Partnerships (SBP) which is an independent private sector development and research company.
The survey was commissioned by the Presidency to cover 446 small and emerging businesses, which are owned by historically disadvantaged black Africans operating in the three provinces.
The survey, which provides robust evidence about the experiences and perceptions of small business owners, found that 70 percent of the respondents that were interviewed felt vulnerable while at work.
The survey focused on businesses operating in five industrial sectors namely the retail, personal services, professional services, small manufacturing and construction, with the potential to contribute to economic growth and to support job creation.
It covered businesses located in inner city areas, large townships and informal settlements, and densely developed suburban areas such as shopping centres and business parks.
According to the report, 31 percent of businesses had been victimised twice or more, and almost 20 percent of businesses had been victimised three or more times.
Businesses based in Cape Town were more likely to have experienced crime than firms operating in Johannesburg or Durban.
Levels of concern were highest in the retail and construction sectors.
It found that 70 percent of retailers - from informal traders to formal fixed premises operators - rated crime as a major problem for business, while among construction firms the figure was 67 percent.
Burglary and robbery feature prominently in people's concerns in townships and informal settlements, the survey found.
Inner city businesses also reported a high prevalence of burglary and robbery, but they also expressed higher than average concerns about petty theft and shoplifting.
Robbery accounted for 19 percent of incidents experienced by businesses in the survey- and in the majority of cases the perpetrators had been armed.
It also noted that 10 percent of incidents had been accompanied by physical violence against the victims.
Burglary accounted for 40 percent of incidents, while shoplifting made up just over 20 percent of the crimes experienced.
According to the report fraud, petty theft, vandalism, car theft and street violence together accounted for about one fifth of incidents.
Small businesses are important drivers of economic growth, job creation and black economic empowerment.
Speaking during the release of the report in Johannesburg, SBP Executive Professor Douglas Irvine said: "Small business owners are very worried about crime. They worry about its effects on their businesses, and they feel unsafe."
Further he said business owners are also pessimistic about any prospect of relief.
"Two thirds do not foresee any decrease in crime levels - and indeed, over a third expect crime levels to rise even further."
The incidences of violent and serious crimes, together with serious damage to or destruction of property, were higher among businesses in townships and informal settlements, where burglary accounted for 57 percent of incidents and robbery 28 percent.
In high density suburban areas, burglaries accounted for 43 percent of incidents, and robbery for 20 percent. In inner city areas the levels of burglary (32 percent) and robbery (13 percent) were considerably lower, but crimes such as shoplifting, petty theft, bag-snatching were more prevalent.
Business Against Crime South Africa Deputy Chief Executive Dr Graham Wright said it was essential that small businesses should continue with preventative measures to reduce their vulnerability to the rising incidences of business robberies.
Although levels of crime have been gradually decreasing, the scourge of crime remains a real challenge.
Over two million crimes were reported to the police in the financial year of 2007/08 in across the country. Of these, 52 percent were theft, commercial crime and property crime; 24 percent interpersonal violence; 9 percent robberies; 8 percent firearms and alcohol and drug; and 7 percent damage to property and arson.
Analysis of 2007/08 crime statistics shows an increase in crime victimisation of businesses - burglary of business premises increased by 8 percent, commercial crimes by 6 percent, and shoplifting by 2 percent.
Even more worrying is a 14 percent increase of robberies in residential premises. - BuaNews