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Maidstone: Calls for crackdown on town centre gangs

A call has been made for more street marshals to patrol a town centre following the launch of a murder investigation.

Shop owners and restaurateurs revealed they would like more regular patrols in the wake of Wayne Chester’s death, something which Maidstone town centre chiefs confirmed they have implemented on certain days.

Jason Howard, owner of Trash or Treasure, said he has been threatened at least three times and claimed Mr Chester’s death was almost inevitable.

There have been calls for marshals to make a return in a bid to make Maidstone safer.
There have been calls for marshals to make a return in a bid to make Maidstone safer.

He said: “We knew Wayne for a few years and he was the most gentle person you could ever meet.

“We feel it is obviously very sad he has passed but this was bound to happen.

“We have had problems with dogs in Brenchley Gardens, kids taking drugs and gangs outside KFC and McDonald’s.

“This was going to happen at some point and it could have been avoided.”

A heightened police presence was felt in Week Street and Brenchley Gardens since Mr Chester’s death.

Mr Howard suggested Maidstone Borough Council should spend money on employing street marshals, which were trialled successfully in July.

He added: “This money being spent on re-paving Week Street needs to be spent on the marshals. We spoke to them when they were in town and there was a massive improvement.

“I have been threatened three or four times in Brenchley Gardens.

“We have had drunks being sick up our wall and we don’t even bother calling the police anymore.

“An 84-year-old man asked me if he needs to take up boxing again because he is scared of coming in town for a haircut. The members of one gang are going up to people and hitting them.

“We don’t have enough police. The council can’t says it can’t afford it when it has £5 million to spend on pavements.”

“If the council would rather spend the money on the pavements and, if something like this happens again, they have got to take some responsibility.”

Franchisee Ali El Hajj. Picture: Martin Apps
Franchisee Ali El Hajj. Picture: Martin Apps

Four wardens, wearing high-visibility jackets and distinctive baseball caps, were on shift together, between noon and 5pm, to crack down on anti-social behaviour in Jubilee Square and Brenchley Gardens and keep shoppers safe.

They were engaged initially for four days in August and one in September.

All the marshals and wardens were funded via an £8,000 grant from the police and crime commissioner (PCC)

This week, One Maidstone confirmed it had talks with police that marshals will carry out day patrols from noon to 5pm on five Saturdays and one Friday between now and Christmas.

The night patrols take place from 1am-5am once a month on Saturdays with money also coming from the PCC.

McDonald’s franchise owner Ali El Hajj, who runs the fast-food shop in Week Street, suggested the cuts to the police force make it difficult to deal with gangs in Maidstone.

He said: “The police are aware of it but they are stretched and they are trying to do whatever they can with limited resources.

“Some of these kids get big-time influence from outsiders who come into Maidstone and they get taken in by the stupidity of being macho.

“The problems used to be with drunks overnight but now it is all in the late afternoon and evenings.

“This is the culture that is in the town and they don’t grasp the danger of their actions.”

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