West Sussex Spar store owner Steve Denham is urging fellow retailers to ask prospective MPs how they plan to reduce violent attacks on store staff.

Steve, who was a victim of an aggressive break-in last year, says the next few weeks are a crucial chance to remind candidates of the growing problem which has seen six murders and several assaults in the past 18 months.

He has written to his own representative, Conservative MP Nick Herbert, to enlist his support. "There is an epidemic of crime affecting the sector of retail where my wife Lynda and I have our business," Steve wrote. "In the past two months there have been two murders and at least 16 violent assaults on workers in community stores. The criminals are using guns, knives and machetes against shop owners and their staff.

"I have read the Conservatives' manifesto on crime and need to ask how a future Conservative government would bring this disastrous crime wave to an end."

Steve told C-Store: "Now is absolutely the time to raise this subject with the candidates and get them to spell out what their party will do to stop the violence should it be elected next month."

He recommends that retailers concentrate their efforts on the candidates most likely to be elected, irrespective of their own political opinions.