Virtual Burglary Project

Virtual Burglary Project

The Virtual Burglary Project is a research program co-headed by Prof. Claire Nee (University of Portsmouth) and involves a collaboration with researchers from Leiden University and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. The Virtual Bur­glary Project uses a VR approach to better understand the behavior of residential burglars and to contribute to crime prevention. Data collections occur in Germany, the Netherlands, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

Research within the Virtual Burglary Project uses virtual reality versions of residential neighborhoods and houses that are developed to study the different ways in which burglars operate when they are “on the job.” Incarcerated burglars, and sometimes others, are invited to explore a virtual neighborhood for burglary opportunities or to com­mit a burglary in VR. In both cases, the participants are instructed to go about the activity just as they would do in real life. The VR system tracks their behavior—such as gaze and spatial patterns, which target they select, which entry points they use, and how they go about committing a burglary once inside the target—in real time. In combi­na­tion with the experimental variation of relevant features of the environment, such as street lighting, alarm systems, signage, or the presence/absence of avatars, this approach provides novel insights into burglary behavior.


Selected Publications

Iris Van Sintemaartensdijk, Jean-Louis Van Gelder, Jan-Willem Van Prooijen, Claire Nee, Marco Otte, and Paul Van Lange, "Mere presence of informal guardians deters burglars: a virtual reality study," Journal of Experimental Criminology (2020).
Amy Meenaghan, Claire Nee, Jean-Louis Van Gelder, Zarah Vernham, and Marco Otte, "Expertise, Emotion and Specialization in the Development of Persistent Burglary," The British Journal of Criminology 60 (3), 742-761 (2020).
Claire Nee, Jean-Louis Van Gelder, Marco Otte, Zarah Vernham, and Amy Meenaghan, "Learning on the job: Studying expertise in residential burglars using virtual environments," Criminology (2019).



The Virtual Burglary Project & Cybersickness

Guests: Dominik Gerstner & Dr. Peter Wozniak • 10/2021
In this episode Christopher Murphy discusses the Virtual Burglary Project, looking at how virtual reality can be used to measure deci­sion-making and percep­tion processes in a computer-generated environment. The tech­nical challenges involved in making a seam­less virtual world are also covered.

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