Published: 12:03, 18 June 2019
| Updated: 12:24, 18 June 2019
Drug addicts are making life a misery for residents by taking over car parks to inhale nitrous oxide.
The tell-tale empty silver canisters of laughing gas are now regular sights on the ground in the morning.
But furious homeowners say the antisocial habit is keeping them awake at night and leaving the county littered with rubbish.
In Maidstone, retired photographer Gillian Gibson says she took the law into her own hands when she confronted drug-takers in the early hours of Sunday morning.
On the Isle of Sheppey, retired vicar the Rev Cindy Kent says yobs keep neighbours awake with loud music in the car park at the bottom of her garden.
Both women have found large amounts of discarded capsules the morning after.
On SaturdayMs Gibson says neighbours were kept awake by two men and two women who spent two-and-a-half hours breathing in the gas, also known as 'hippy crack', near her home in Penenden Heath.
She said: "They consumed two boxes of Mosa nitrous oxide cream chargers, 48 charger canisters, and kept residents awake into the small hours of Sunday with their shrieking voices."
When she finally snapped and approached the four at 12.30am to find out "what was going on" she said they were all "too dizzy" to respond.
She said: "When one of them heard me calling the police he hopped into a black pick-up truck and sped off, leaving his own car, a white Golf Polo, behind.
"Minutes later, he re-appeared and, ignoring the protests of me and my neighbour, bolted into his car and drove off at great speed."
She asked: "Why is the law so unclear about the use of nitrous oxide for recreational purposes?
"I am aware of its medical use and anyone over 18 can buy it for whipping cream.
"But it was pretty obvious these two boxes were not going to be used for some culinary dish."
It is not illegal to possess the gas but it is illegal to sell the drug, often used as a pain-killer, for human consumption.
Police Inspector Nick Hatcher said: "We were called by a member of public at around 1am on Sunday.
"It was reported the occupants of two vehicles were littering and acting anti-socially at a car park in Boxley Road, Penenden Heath, before leaving the area while the informant was on the phone.
"As the offenders had left the scene and there was no risk of harm, arrangements were made for a neighbourhood officer to visit the scene the following day to check for damage. Enquiries into the incident are ongoing."
Residents in Seathorpe Avenue, Minster, have also been kept awake by late-night drug-takers in a cliff-top car park next to their homes.
Cindy Kent, who was lead singer in 60s pop group The Settlers, said: "There were six cars lined up and the occupants were causing distress.
"In the morning my neighbour found 64 canisters and a lot of rubbish. We need the car park lit to deter these people."
She added: "This problem is becoming worse. It is outrageous. Police have also found evidence of cannabis being smoked in the car park. I could get high with the fumes coming over my fence."
A police spokesman said: “Officers have kept a close eye on the area. Police will continue to provide a visible policing presence during their routine patrols.”
Residents' requests to have the car park lit have been rejected.
They had a joint meeting with Minster parish council, Swale council, which owns the car park, and Kent County Council which looks after street lights.
Mrs Kent said: "They all told us there was no money. I am sure we could get a sponsor to help."
What is Nitrous Oxide?
Nitrous oxide is the latest illicit substances to hit the streets of Britain.
It can make people feel euphoric and relaxed but it can also cause hallucinations, dizziness and affect judgement creating a risk of accidents.
One woman was left paralysed from the chest down after inhaling 15 balloons of 'hippy crack' every weekend.
Boxes of 24 canisters are easily available on the internet for less than £10.
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More by this authorJohn Nurden