The UK’s National Business Crime Forum held its one-year anniversary at the House of Commons on Thursday. A reception, hosted by Mike Weatherley MP, was held on the Terrace of the Houses of Parliament overlooking the River Thames.
The event – sponsored by the Cardinal Group and Booker – follows the official launch of the organisation in 2011.
The NBCF is a national, non-profit organisation that brings together business, ACPO, the Home Office and business associations such as the Chamber of Commerce to gather and share data in the fight against crime.
Over 100 guests attended the event and heard speeches from:
- Mike Cherry, the national policy chairman at the Federation of Small Business and chairman of the NBCF
- Mike Weatherley MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Business and Retail Crime
- Paul Broadbent, assistant chief constable of Nottinghamshire Police and the ACPO lead on crime against business
- Jason Trigg, CEO of the Cardinal Group which is a major sponsor of the NBCF
- And Barrie Millett, a Board Director of the NBCF
One of the guests was Jim Doxey, regional coordinator of BOSS, the British Oil Security Syndicate which combats forecourt crime, who welcomed the launch of the NBCF. BOSS educates petrol retailers and the police about the problems of forecourt crime but he said a national approach to information sharing would help build a case against prolific criminals.
While most petrol sellers are geared up to mitigate the impact of robbery and burglary, they still suffer from shoplifting and people driving off without paying for the petrol. However, it’s difficult to link isolated incidents to build up a case against repeat offenders if the thieves are clever enough to spread their crimes among different retailers.
“What the National Business Crime Forum is setting out to do is be a national organisation,” Doxey said. “We need to log crimes nationally, so we can analyse national crime patterns.”
Mick Phipps, head of loss prevention at retailer Wilkinson and chairman of the NBCF’s retail section, said that in the current economy, protecting the bottom line from shrinkage is even more important than ever, and he hopes that sharing data with other businesses, through the NBCF, will assist the police.
“But if we are looking at gangs or looking at travelling criminality who are using the M1 and A1 and travelling around the UK, then we have the ability to assimilate that information and take it up to regional and national level and get the police involved to a greater degree to target these individuals,” he said.
“At the moment, we don’t really have that ability to do it. We have police at the national level who look at it, but we don’t have that ability, really, between the regional forces. I’m hoping that this will be one of the ways to do it.”
He explained that once collected, the data would help identify offenders who spread their crimes around, never concentrating on one retailer. “They are all isolated, they aren’t put together, so we don’t see that this individual is committing crimes across a number of different sectors and they are being dealt with in silos for each individual offence. So therefore they may get a caution, they may get nothing, they may get a smack on the wrist, whereas if we had the information about each of those individuals, we could treat them properly for the amount of criminality that they have actually achieved, whereas at the moment that’s just not happening. ”
Phipps revealed plans for a trial of the system. “We are going to be doing a trial in the Northeast, based out of Newcastle Gateshead. The concept is to look at data sharing and then doing it at a local, regional and national level.”
A picture of crime
Paul Broadbent, the assistant chief constable of Nottinghamshire and the ACPO lead on crime against business, told us that with shrinking resources for the police, it is more important than ever for businesses to help the police build up a picture of crime as it affects them. “Crime is still reducing but the rate of reduction is slowing down. So what I’ve been doing is asking businesses, repeatedly, to report more of their crime to us. We know a level of crime goes unreported, so we don’t have the full picture until people tell us exactly what’s happening.”
And he added: “That crime that they chose not to report to us might be that one missing piece that we need that puts it all together and actually contributes to a big criminal syndicate being [found] responsible for many hundreds of crimes across the country. ”
The NBCF will create a “single pot” for intelligence, he said. “Instead of lots of businesses and public and private secotr orgs having their own pieces of the jigsaw, put it all together, we get the full picture, we nail the bad guys for not just that one isolated crime but for everything. That’s got to be a good thing.”
Mike Cherry, the national policy chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, is the chairman of the NBCF.
He says the Forum’s mission is to get government to recognise the impact that crime has on the economy. “The vision was to ensure that everyone was working together, working to ensure that government in particular recognised the huge damage that crime against business was having. Because too many people think of business as this ethereal being but actually businesses have owners, owners have employees, employees are part of their community, and small businesses in particular are anchored to their community. So the vision was, get everyone working together, get it recognised as to what the problem is and the damage it does to the community and the wider economy. ”
I asked him if businesses were getting enough support from government when it came to fighting crime.
“I still have some reservations about that. I think they recognise some sectors perhaps, but I don’t think they’ve got the true message yet of the actual damage that the whole impact of crime against business, right across the whole board – business crime in all its forms impacts against the business community,” he said.
Working in isolation
Richard Stones works in business security and resilience for ACPO and he is a director of the NBCF. I asked him what difference the NBCF would make to the business community.
“Traditionally business has always worked in isolation when it comes to their sector risks, and now we have a scenario where businesses are starting to recognise that what might be insignificant to one sector might have real relevance to another. And starting to combine those risks and threats starts to enhance the intelligence that they possess. Our intention is that we capitalise on that, pull out what I call the golden nuggets of intelligence that that combined response provides, and provide a better response to businesses, to raise their awareness of the risks and threats that are out there,” he said.
“Working with the business community, we have looked at four strands of enforcement which are: intelligence, enforcement, prevention and reassurance. And under those four strands, we have business leaders chairing activity on a national basis to start trying to collaborate – or formulate – a collaborative structure to deal with business crime,” Stones said.
Jason Trigg, the boss of the Cardinal Group of security companies, is a supporter of NBCF and sponsored the House of Commons reception. I asked him why he supported the NBCF.
“The business crime forum was a passion of mine, in terms of making a change to the business crime environment. Lots of my clients across all sectors have really become fed up over the last ten years in terms of the landscape and with no change actually happening. It was a great opportunity, listening to what happened here a year ago, to get involved and help sponsor and drive change,” he said.
“I think what we are beginning to see is that it’s no longer a talking shop, action is actually happening now,” Trigg concluded.
So as it celebrates its official first birthday, the NBCF is beginning to draw together the various strands of business crime prevention, including corporate security departments, the police and central government. It remains to be seen what impact it will have on business crime.