Airen Agbontaen: the Londoner who says crime has never let her go

Airen Agbontaen is a middle-aged woman born in Nigeria. Since she arrived in London she has worked in retail and customer service jobs but says like many of her work colleagues she is beginning to feel increasingly unsafe. Alessia Sasso has been to find out why Airen says she is constantly at fear of crime.

“I don’t feel like London it’s a secure place,” Airen says.  And it’s not surprising.  During her short career in the city, she’s been attacked, dealt with shoplifters and drug addicts and seen a stabbing right in front of her.  Like thousands of other people working in the service sector in the city, she is at the sharp end of the growth in violent crime.

She has two kids, a 12 years old daughter and a 20 years old son. She protects and loves them in any possible ways she can, this is also seen by the way she talks about them and by how she always worries about their whereabouts and how they are doing.

The first serious incident was when she was working at Poundstretcher.  The company had a policy of encouraging staff to approach customers acting suspiciously. But when she went up to a man shoplifting many jars of coffee, things turned nasty:

“I asked him if I could see his bag, and that’s when he pushed me out of the store onto the floor and tried to run away.” She says.

“He couldn’t run away because I kept holding onto his bag.   That just made him even angrier.  Then he began to punch me.”.

“At least once a week I had to deal with people like this,” she says, she never really felt secure at her workplace, this also because the company she used to work for, don’t have securities to keep the shop under control.

Her son Nicholas Tonelli never really liked the fact that his mother worked around Peckham. In a way, he blames the area to be known as “bad”.  

“When my mother first told me, she got a job in Peckham, I jumped,” he says. He never likes the idea of her mother to work in such an area. Iùn fact once he finds out about this big incident, he begged his mother to leave the job and to find a secure place.

“I don’t feel like London it’s a secure place, not for me or for my kids,” she says;

Unfortunately, this is not the only time Airen Agbontaen felt insecure and in danger in London, recently she started working for TLF services, where she is a customer service in different stations all the time. A few months ago she witnessed a knife crime action in Stratford Station right in front of her.

“It was horrible” she states. She started to adopt the protocol of the station’s policy, as required to call the police and make everyone evacuate the Station, she did all of this shaking as she was too scared for her life.

Airen Agbontaen was only one of the millions of victims of crime in London and she is not sure whether London is a safe and secure place anymore.