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Eagon Chambers: Mall Cop

7 September 09 interview: James Walker

“Some celebrity woman came and opened the House of Fraser. I can’t remember her name, but I’ve met her."

When I was a teenager I used to go to Viccy Centre with my mates and hang about the various department stores where we would play our favourite game; knocking suitcases onto unsuspecting biddies' heads as they mounted the escalators. One day, I was collared by a security guard who took me to one side and explained, firmly but fairly, why I should find more productive ways to expend my energy. I took his advice and have since flowered into a book-loving vegetarian. I decided it was time to catch up with that man, Eagon Chambers, to find out what other rogues he has had to deal with in twenty-two years of walking his beat in the Victoria Centre….

How old are you, if you don’t mind us asking?
You’re not going to print that, are you? Fifties. Let’s say I was born in the fifties. Yeah.

Have you always lived in Nottingham?
No, I’m from Jamaica. Came over when I was young with the parents and the family, as you do. We’re all still here. I went to Birmingham once but came back after six months. I hated it. Probably didn’t give it a chance, but I missed Nottingham. I’ve been down London and people haven’t got the time of day for you. They’re so rude. We’re fine up here. I wouldn’t live anywhere else.

How long have you been a security guard?
Oh, a long time. 22 years in September. A long stretch.

Are things better or worse now?
It’s not too bad in here now but years ago, gangs of lads, we used to have a lot of problems. Winos we used to have trouble with too, but they’ve gone as well. It’s a pleasant place now.

How come they’ve all gone?
I don’t know. I suppose we keep on top of ‘em. Eventually they get fed up of being moved on and go and hang out somewhere else. Plus, now, we’ve got the street wardens. They help make it a steady day.

How do kids react to you when you move them on - are they polite?
Most are. You get the odd cheeky, lairy ones. But generally they’re alright, yeah. I just try and coax them out really. Talk to them, pacify them, flannel ‘em mainly, to get rid of ‘em. And it normally works.

Does talking work better than, shall we say, more traditional methods?
(Laughs) I don’t know how to answer that. I think the older system was better to be honest, but that’s probably just because I’m older. It’s what I grew up with and know. The kids that grow up now, the parents aren’t firm with them. They get everything they want, basically. The girl I’m seeing now, she’s got a thirteen-year-old and he's got an X-Box and two hundred and sixty pound for the birthday! I wouldn’t do that because then they expect it, don’t they? When I were young, I got a couple o’ bars of chocolate and a bob or two.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Helping the public - that’s rewarding. And we’re first aiders. We learnt to use the heart machine, you know, the defibrillator. One of the guards saved a chap’s life with that - he had a heart attack outside Millers Cookies. It were in the Evening Post, front page.

What is the strangest request you’ve had from the public?
I’ve had so many I can’t remember! For instance, someone comes up and asks you for directions to a certain shop. You know the shop is in the other shopping centre, so you tell ‘em - and they say ‘No, I was in here last week and it was here’ and I just think, well, I’ve been working here for 22 years and I know it’s not. But they still don’t believe you. I had one walk off and call me an idiot.

Do you have a particular route you walk?
We do the whole centre and the car park, up and down the malls, and the roof as well. Go outside the perimeter and have a look around. I was wondering the other day how many miles I’ve covered in here over the years.

Do you keep your eyes out for particular types of behaviour?
If there’s shouting, you look up or if you walk past a shop and staff are outside you ask them if they are alright. If there’s a problem in any of the shops they’ve got buzzers and the controller shouts me on the walkie-talkie. I’m an old head. I know what to look out for….

Have you ever been seriously threatened?
One morning I came in and a bloke was sat drinking. I went up to him and said, 'mate can you stop?' He told me a few bad words and he went in his bag and I saw the handle coming out so I grabbed him. The police took him and said when they searched his house he had about forty different weapons. One of them sorts, he was. I’ve had blades pulled on me, but not as serious as what that bloke had. I’ve been punched once but it was nowt. Just sore for a few days. On me cheek (smiles).

Do people get banned from the Centre?
Oh yeah. We’ve got a book of faces downstairs that we look out for. We call it Rogues Gallery. Got about 25 well-known shoplifters and troublemakers in it.

What’s a typical shoplifter?
We’ve got three types. Them that steal for drugs, them that are young and silly, and the prolific ones that steal to order. That’s how they make a living, you know.

Do you get people recognising you out of uniform?
When I’m out and about and in town you get people saying hello. That’s a regular occurrence that is. I used to work on the doors so I know a lot of people.

How does working the doors differ to security work?
You’re dealing with rational people here in the Centre. I did both at the same time for a while. Three hours in a pub ain’t that bad. But it’s different now. The pubs are open all night.

If you could bump into any celebrity in the Victoria Centre, who would it be and why?
I used to work one door with Frank, Carl Froch’s father. I like Carl Froch. I’m glad he won. He’s a good lad. He’s done a weigh-in here when he beat that Canadian bloke. We have a few highlights here, you know; some celebrity woman came and opened the House of Fraser. I can’t remember her name, but I’ve met her. But if I could meet anyone it would be Obama. He’s my man. Before him, Mandela.

Forest or County?
Forest. I used to go every Saturday before I started working here. I used to love Kenny Burns and Keane. Birtles was alright. Burnsie was like one of the lads. No nonsense.

Do you think they would make good security guards?
Burnsie would, back in the day. I don’t think Keane has got the temperament. He loses his fuse.

Any message for the people of Nottingham?
No. Not really. Just the youngsters. I’d like to tell them to behave and settle down and get a career. Have some responsibility. But they’re young and don’t know this yet.


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