Published: 06:00, 23 July 2021
| Updated: 09:16, 24 July 2021
Politicians are demanding extra police patrols before a Weald town becomes a “wild west haven for thugs and bandits”.
Since lockdown began, Cranbrook has been plagued by an epidemic of anti-social behaviour - with teenagers smashing windows, streetlights, bus shelters and electrical boxes with catapults and steel ball bearings.
The car was tipped over near the Co-op. Credit: Simon Ashby
A car left in the Cranbrook Co-op car park overnight was even tipped onto its side by vandals last month.
Residents are reportedly living in fear, too worried about reprisals to report the crimes.
Last Friday, MP for Maidstone and the Weald, Helen Grant - along with the leader of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council Tom Dawlings, housing bosses and other councillors - attended an emergency meeting with Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott and senior force officials in a bid to tackle the problem.
Mrs Grant, who is helping to work on an action plan, said: “Cranbrook is one of the jewels of the Weald and it is extremely concerning that its reputation is being damaged by the criminal behaviour of a small group.
“I particularly want to increase the police presence to make sure that everyone can feel safe and enjoy their beautiful town.”
Cranbrook and Sissinghurst Parish Council chairman Kim Fletcher said: “Nobody seems to be challenging these kids.
“We have got lovely schools, beautiful tourist attractions, wonderful people and independent shops but there has been an awful lot of destruction from the minority.
“There is an epidemic of catapulting from a small number of young people and the general feeling is we need a police constable to help deal with this.
“But this is not just a police issue, it requires action from all of us. I hope this is just the start of a coordinated multi-agency work in Cranbrook to restore peace and tranquillity.”
Following the meeting, Kent County Councillor for Cranbrook, Seán Holden, hopes to hold another with members of the public so they can air their concerns before moving forward.
He said: "People seem to be behaving this way with impunity.
"We need to be looking at zero tolerance ideas and serious community reaction otherwise things could get out of control and what is a beautiful town, and a lovely place to be, will become a wild west haven for thugs and bandits.”
Mr Scott is urging local people to report all incidents of criminal damage and anti-social behaviour to the police.
He said: “I know that Antisocial behaviour is one of residents’ top concerns and impacts upon quality of life.
"I will be taking steps to remind people of the many ways they can report incidents.
"It is also an important opportunity to remind people of their right to use the Community Trigger, so that agencies are compelled to come together to address antisocial behaviour.”
The Community Trigger allows people to ask their local Community Safety Partnership to review responses to incidents of anti-social behaviour.
This helps agencies to work together to resolve incidents that affect residents' quality of life.
Kent Police is urging local people to report all incidents of criminal damage and anti-social behaviour.