Actions speak louder than words: Using virtual reality to understand collaborative decision-making in residential burglary

Project Details


Residential burglary is a prevalent crime with far-reaching effects on its victims. Aside from the financial cost (estimated to be around £6,000 per burglary; Heeks et al., 2018), burglary has been reported to be one of the crimes that the public fears the most. This is partly due to the perception of a high likelihood of victimisation (Ceccato, 2016; Warr, 2000), but also as a result of the invasive nature of the offence (Kershaw et al., 2000). Burglary is commonly undertaken in pairs or in groups (Carrington. 2009; Piquero et al., 2007). Those who co-offend have been found to be less likely to be arrested, more likely to re-offend, and to continue to offend for a longer period of time (Anderson. 2019; Lantz & Hutchinson, 2015). Evidence suggests that peers may encourage the decision to offend by influencing risk judgments (McGloin & Thomas, 2016). The impact on decisions made while undertaking a burglary is less clear but has important implications for crime prevention initiatives.

The majority of young offenders, particularly those engaging in burglary or robbery, act in pairs or groups. While we have a good understanding, from decades of research, about how a burglary is committed by an individual burglar, there has been much less research that looks at the influence that co-offenders may have on each other's decision making during the offence. Recent research has used virtual reality as a tool to observe 'offending' behaviour (in place of attempting to watch the commission of an actual offence, which has clear ethical and practical issues), however has been limited to the observation of solo burglars. This project involved creating and testing a virtual environment, a neighbourhood and property, that could be explored and 'burgled' by pairs of students. The purpose of this research was to test whether virtual reality can be used to observe and record collaborative decision making, and inform the ongoing development of a simulation that can be used to uncover co-offender decision making with experienced burglars. The findings suggested that VR is a promising tool for replicating real life behaviour, and as such shows great promise for the ongoing development of our understanding of residential burglary.
Effective start/end date1/04/221/10/23


  • British Academy: £9,763.00

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


  • Burglary
  • Virtual reality
  • Decision-making
  • Co-offender
  • Collaboration