Crime is keeping small businesses in South Africa awake at night, and one in four say they have been victims of crime more than once in the past year.
These interim findings are part of the sixth edition of the SME Survey 2008 due for release at the end of October 2008.
Preliminary results of the survey found that 45percent of the 5000 small and medium enterprises surveyed said they had been victims of crime, with more than a third having experienced a crime in the past two years.
As with the 2007 survey, 27percent of the respondents rated crime as a primary worry. Although there were other significant issues such as finances included, crime was rated as the most disastrous element by far.
Fifteen percent of small businesses lost more than one percent of annual turnover to physical crime, while 71percent lost up to one percent of turnover.
SME Survey principal researcher Arthur Goldstuck said last year's survey had the agriculture, transport, and retail businesses as the most affected by crime, and he suspected that the same sectors would feature again in this year's survey.
He said the open business sectors had the most exposure to public interaction and could not always apply sufficient security measures.
"Some of the thinking that makes SME's vulnerable is the 'it will not happen to me' mentality or expenditures on something that will not affect productivity directly. Many small business react in applying security measures after they have already been victims, and can still be repeat victims," said Goldstuck.
He said the 2008 survey would include the effect of power failures and load shedding on business data loss for small businesses.
Business Against Crime South Africa deputy chief executive Dr Graham Wright said small businesses needed to continue with preventative measures to reduce their vulnerability to the increase in business robberies.
Wright said the organisation was aware of the challenges facing small businesses and had embarked on a project that would put measures in place to make recommendations to assist small businesses to address these issues.