Shop owners are calling for a stronger police presence in Whitstable following a spate of vandalism.
Three independent Harbour Street businesses - Mosaic boutique, Union House, and Elliott’s - have had large front windows smashed.
Union House employee Jason House said: “A lot of people seem to know the kids who did this, but unless you’re a bigger company willing to push the police and take it to court, it seems it’s for the community to pick up the pieces.
“This vandalism is a recurring thing. You don’t really see police at all around here.
“I think having more police would help deter people from doing this, and let them know there will be repercussions.
“For stores with big burly blokes that can confront these people, it’s not such an issue. But for others, it can be very intimidating.”
Shernaz Dinshaw has owned Mosaic boutique, a few doors down from Union House, for 19 years.
She explained how store manager Debbie has recently been forced to barricade the shop door after feeling threatened by the behaviour of young people outside.
Shops were targeted between 5pm and 8pm last Tuesday, while Mosaic’s window was shattered at about 7.30pm last Thursday.
Ms Dinshaw was upstairs when, at around midnight, vandals then smashed a temporary board that had been placed over the broken glass.
“It’s terribly inconvenient,” she said. “You feel violated. There have been issues with car mirrors being broken too.
“We don’t have a police station here. I think people know there’s no police, and think they can get away with whatever they want.”
Many have connected the vandalism to an apparent lack of police presence in the town.
Two days after the Harbour Street attacks, front windows of two family homes in Cromwell Road were reportedly smashed when lumps of ice were thrown through them, though police have been unable to confirm this.
Conservative Cllr Ashley Clark said: “There is disgruntlement about the total lack of service from the police because they don’t attend, they just give people a crime number.
“The police response is woefully inadequate. It’s not the failure of PCs and Sergeants - they are doing a good job, but there aren’t enough of them.
“Kent police commissioner Matthew Scott was saying we are going to get 200 more policemen, but it takes time to get trained, and it’s 300 fewer than we had in 2010. Those currently working are run ragged.
"It's terribly inconvenient. You feel violated" - Shernaz Dinshaw
“The greatest responsibility of the government is to make sure people are secure, but they are failing abysmally.”
Police responded to concerns by confirming they are currently investigating reports of criminal damage - but have so far made no arrests.
Chief Inspector Mark Weller said: “We do understand that anti-social behaviour and criminal damage is extremely upsetting for residents and we ensure officers and Police Community Support Officers patrol Whitstable on a regular basis.
“Kent Police is committed to providing a visible presence for all communities, but it is important that we focus our resources on the key times and places where the demand is highest.
“All our calls will be prioritised accordingly to the level of threat, harm and risk to the victim, and in some cases like these, where life is not in danger and the crime is not in progress, immediate attendance is not always required.
“However, all reports of crime will be investigated, so I can’t stress how important it is that residents and businesses report incidents to us as soon as they happen.
“And there are now even more ways in which to do that.
“As well as calling 101 or 999 in an emergency, residents can now report non-urgent crimes via the Kent Police website by visiting kent.police.uk/services/report-online.
“We don’t just wait for crime to happen either. We work on preventative measures by regularly talking to our partner agencies including the council with a view to tackling crime head on.”
Anyone with information relating to the investigation is urged to call 01843 222289 quoting reference ZY/10356/18.