Crime among SMEs is costing the sector more than €1.8 billion annually, according to a new study.

The National Crime Survey from the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association found the yearly cost of crime per enterprise is €6,750, while the annual cost of prevention is €5,428 for each business.

ISME's study stated nearly a third of all SMEs have been impacted by crime in the last 12 months, with nearly half of those affected experiencing multiple incidents.

However, this level of crime indicates a 5% reduction on 2015 figures.

According to the survey, the highest incidence of crime was reported in Dublin City (47%), followed by Dublin County (36%), while Munster showed the least at 19%.

The retail sector was the area of the business community most affected with nearly half of SMEs targeted.

The most common crime reported was "theft by outsiders" by 32% of respondents, followed by "burglary" 29%, "vandalism" 27%, and "attempted burglary" 24%.

ISME CEO Mark Fielding said a reduction in business crime is "fundamental to business prosperity and is not being prioritised by Government.

"The business community has the right to expect that, when found guilty; a perpetrator of crime against business will be dealt with appropriately within the legal system.

"This survey clearly shows that there is a total lack of faith in the justice system, as 98% of respondents feel that it is ineffective in dealing with business crime," he added.

He also said that 98% of SMEs do not have faith in the justice system because of their experiences.

Almost two thirds of businesses are not insured for crimes that are being committed against them and this creates a difficulty with costs, he added.