Insurer Axa says soaring prices has led to criminals stripping buildings of electrical and metal fittings

Building materials are increasingly being targeted by criminals because of soaring prices, according to research from insurance firm Axa.

The revelation comes in a report that shows the cost of business crime leapt by almost a fifth in the first half of the year and is likely to rise further.

The company said it had seen a 10% increase in the number of claims for crimes committed against businesses, compared with the same period last year, and a 7.5% increase in the average claim.

It said the number of buildings being stripped of electrical cables and metal fittings had gone up due to the rising cost of building materials and it expected crime in this area to get worse as the economic downturn deepens.

Doug Barnett, AXA’s head of customer risk management, said: ““The increase in business crime is likely to get worse as the economic downturn continues, particularly where prices for certain goods are increasing. This is especially true of some building materials.

The increase in business crime is likely to get worse as the economic downturn continues

Doug Barnett

“If high street crime is falling, as recent government statistics suggest, we believe the police should now increase the emphasis on tackling crimes against UK businesses.

“Business crime should not be seen as ‘victimless’ just because insurance is in place to pick up the cost. Many business owners regularly worry about the fear of being robbed for their stock or having vital equipment stolen which could put them out of business for a period of time and therefore affect not only their own livelihoods, but the lives of all their employees.”

The most common crime was “forcible theft” – criminals breaking and entering locked offices, shops, factories and warehouses – which has risen by 15%.

Damage to business premises, which the firm said frequently involved bricks through windows, was the second most common.