My week: A REAL-LIFE BURGLAR

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At the end of a week in which the Government published guidelines for householders on how to tackle a burglar, a veteran north London thief, with 27 convictions for breaking and entering, gives an insight into his past seven days. He was talking to Andrew Johnson.

Sunday: I'm trying going to go straight. I got out of Pentonville on probation last week and I don't want to go back. Which means keeping my nose clean, seeing my probation officer and staying off the drugs. Trouble is, that's easier said than done.

Monday: You'd be surprised how many people still keep their front door keys under the mat. Not that a key matters that much. Often a front door is easy to kick in or a window at the back is left open. Failing that, cutting up one of those plastic bottles of Sarson's vinegar into a certain shape can pop a Yale lock, or you can take the rubber lining out of double glazed windows. Sash windows are easy to prise open as well.

I kick down the door of a big Victorian terrace in north London. It's a dilapidated house with a flimsy front door. A new family had just moved in. I don't have time for a big snoop. I'm in and out as quick as a flash, grabbing the first portable item that comes to hand - a laptop. You don't want to be seen climbing over a wall with a massive TV set, so anything that fits into a sports bag is the general rule.

Tuesday: I'm not one of those thieves who break into rich people's houses. You need to be organised and have the contacts to fence the high-class takings. It's major league stuff and you can't do it alone. Those areas are very well guarded, often with their own security firms. I prefer a suburban house that offers easy access to the back - end of terrace, alleyway or railway embankment, even a main road. You need a bit of front so if the neighbours see you can pretend you know the owner, who you can say is locked out. Alarms don't really bother me. No one pays any attention. A dog's a deterrent. Not a little yappy dog - I'll just lock that in a room.

Go hawking the laptop around a couple of pubs today.

Wednesday: The money soon goes, especially if you're feeding a drug habit. I'll do what I can to get the cash. I have followed pensioners home from the post office on pension day in the past, to find out where they live, knowing they've got cash. If someone is in, chances are they'll be as scared as me and relieved when I scarper. It doesn't happen very often. When it does I just leg it, which is just as well now that people are officially allowed to kill me.

Climb over the wall of an end of terrace through French window (secured with an internal catch, easy to break). Grab a portable stereo, an armful of CDs, and a big jar full of 20p coins. Stuff them into the bag and then out of the front door. In and out in less than 10 minutes. I always have an exit strategy. If I go in through the front door, then that's the way out. If I go in through an open back window (you'd be amazed) then the front door is the way out too.

Thursday: I have an appointment with my probation officer, who's been trying to get me a job. I've done a bit of plumbing work in the past, but I don't really want to do that all my life. I did once spend eight years without getting into trouble, when I kept away from what you might call the "wrong crowd". But then I started on the heroin again.

Friday: My first ever break-in was into my old school. I couldn't really get on with the lessons and used to bunk off quite a lot. It wasn't really anyone's fault - I got on OK with my parents. But I started knocking around with older kids and when we were bored at weekends we used to break in for a laugh. Then we started nicking cars and things progressed from there really. The first time I was nicked was when I was 13. I'm now 41. I always get caught eventually but generally I'm out after six or eight months - although I once did a three-year stretch. Might go on a "fishing expedition" tonight. You find a house with a nice car parked outside, stick a fishing rod through the letter box and hook the keys that are normally left lying around on a table in the hallway.

Saturday: I'm thinking about an "away day" to Manchester. It's too risky robbing in your own area all the time. Disturbed the householder last night and had to run. I don't really feel guilty about what I do. I'd never take personal stuff like photographs. And I stay out of kids' rooms.

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