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At first, it feels almost too easy. Against the gentle rustling of leaves, I walk through the back gate, across the lawn, and open the door, all of it unnoticed. I am committing a crime in broad daylight – and no one can stop me.

My glee soon turns to a kind of mental fog. I first grab the flat-screen TV, only to drop it on the floor. Time’s ticking by, so I run upstairs, then down, then up again. I bag a laptop, a phone – but in my rush, I’ve missed some of the biggest bounty.

At first, it feels almost too easy. Against the gentle rustling of leaves, I walk through the back gate, across the lawn, and open the door, all of it unnoticed. I am committing a crime in broad daylight – and no one can stop me.

My glee soon turns to a kind of mental fog. I first grab the flat-screen TV, only to drop it on the floor. Time’s ticking by, so I run upstairs, then down, then up again. I bag a laptop, a phone – but in my rush, I’ve missed some of the biggest bounty.

My accomplice, Claire Nee, rolls her eyes. She points to a jacket, hanging on a chair – inside was a wallet, with credit cards and keys, which I could have easily nabbed. Then she points out the iPad I’d left on the chair, and the passports in the drawers. I’m crushed; I’d imagined I would be a rather good burglar.
At least I needn’t worry about being caught by our friends with the talking broaches. The house we’re robbing isn’t real; it’s on a computer screen, part of a virtual reality program that I can control with a mouse. It’s the latest tool that Nee, a forensic psychologist at the University of Portsmouth, has been using to try to get inside the minds of burglars. “In the past, people thought of offenders as impulsive, indiscriminate, opportunistic – they didn’t think they were very clever because they usually aren’t well educated,” she says. And that has been a mistake. Nee has found that burglars have a complex cognitive toolbox of advanced, automatic skills – much like a chess player or tennis star. If we are to prevent future crimes, we’ve got to appreciate that expertise.
 
 
"Nee had forgotten that she had left her briefcase downstairs; as she watched the video link, she found one burglar leafing through her own belongings.

 
Nee began her research in prisons, where she carefully quizzed offenders about their misdeeds. She would gently probe their memories with interviews and questionnaires, as well as showing them photos and plans of houses and streets to try to trigger recall of their strategies. You might think the convicted burglars would be suspicious, or hostile, to someone trying to plumb their secrets. In fact, they are more than happy to open up. “A lot of the time they are incredibly bored. So what you overwhelmingly find is that they are really pleased that someone is interested in what they do,” she says.
 
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About Us


NZ Writers College is a leading online writing school in New Zealand.

We offer specialised, online writing courses tutored by award-winning writers. Get the writing tools you need, expert insider advice and hours and hours of writing practice. Work one-to-one with a professional writer and realise your writing dreams.

 

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NZ Writers College offers online writing classes all over New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific Islands. We have students from Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Napier, Whangarei, Rotorua, Hastings, Wellington, Nelson, Christchurch, Invercargill, Dunedin, Hawkes Bay, Palmerston North, as well as Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra and Melbourne, Australia.

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Nichola Meyer or Koos Turenhout
Email: admin@nzwriterscollege.co.nz


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