9 Steps To Take After A Burglary



What Every Burglary Victim Needs To Know

According to FBI crime statistics, an estimated 1,928,465 cases of burglary occurred in 2013. That means that every 16.2 seconds a person’s home was broken into. With so many people falling victim to this crime, it’s no wonder there are so many resources promoting and advising home security and protection. But what do you do if those methods failed? What happens if you forgot to set your alarm, your window wasn't shut properly, or the thief chose an unconventional entrance, like your chimney or doggy door? Nothing is 100 percent foolproof, no matter how cautious and prepared you can be. So, just in case it does happen to you, here are the steps you need to take immediately after a burglary: SEE ALSO: 5 Most Common Burglar Strategies

1. Get To Safety

If you come home to signs of a break-in—the front door kicked in, a broken window, a garage door pried open, etc.—don’t go inside. As tempting as it is to find out what’s happened, you never know if the thief is still inside.  Lock yourself in your car or head to a neighbor’s house, a nearby store, or anywhere else that will keep you away from harm. If you happen to be home when a burglar enters, check to make sure that everyone in your family is OK and unharmed before heading to safety with them.

2. Call The Authorities

It’s best to call the police the moment you suspect that someone has broken into your home. If you think the thief is still in your home or in the area, dial 911. However, if the burglary has already taken place and you know the area is safe, contact your local law enforcement using their non-emergency number. The sooner you call, the greater the probability you have of getting your property back. If the thief is still lingering in the area, there’s a better chance for you to recover your items if you contact the authorities right away.

3. Don’t Touch Anything

If you’ve seen any type of police drama or crime show, you know it’s standard practice not to touch anything in a crime scene. This is to make sure that all the evidence—including fingerprints, scent, and anything else the thief left behind—isn’t destroyed or contaminated. Although it’s doubtful that the police will bother dusting for prints or bringing in crime sniffing dogs on a simple burglary case, it’s still best to leave everything as is so they have every possible lead to go on in order to find and prosecute the burglar.

4. Take Inventory

After the police have gathered their evidence and released the crime scene, it’s time to take stock of the situation. Go around the house and make a list of everything that’s missing or has been damaged, along with the value of each item, when it was purchased, and any receipts or proof of purchase documents (e.g. confirmation emails, old warranties, product manuals, etc.). Make sure to include any kind of identifying characteristics or unique marks, or even draw pictures or search for images of the items online. It may take some time to notice everything that was taken, but you can always add to the as you go along.

5. File A Police Report

Filing a burglary report to the police is important for two reasons. The first is that it helps the police in their investigation. Although they will have started their own report when they first arrived on scene, your report will contain more details (especially after completing your inventory list), including:
  • Where and when the burglary took place
  • Who discovered the burglary and his or her relationship to you
  • How the burglary was discovered
  • The condition of the property at the time of discovery (detailing the damages as well as cost of damages)
  • An inventory list of missing items (along with values of the items)
  • The contact information of anyone who had access to the property (including yourself)
  • Any information that will help identify or locate the burglar
The second reason to file a police report is because, in most cases, a report must be filed within 24 hours after the incident in order to file an insurance claim. To an insurance company, no crime was committed unless an official police report is filed.

6. Contact Your Insurance Company

Once you file your police report, you can then file a claim with your insurance company. In some cases, an insurance company may decide to have a claims adjuster look over your property and assess your claim, but in most cases, things can be handled online or through the phone. Be sure to have your inventory list available so you can provide as much relevant information as possible. Remember, while your goal is to get a fair compensation for your lost property, an insurer’s goal is to make sure they don’t pay more than necessary. So, in order for things to go smoothly, give as many details as you can about what was lost and what needs replacing.

7. Cancel Everything

But recovering the physical property that was stolen is often only half the battle. Nowadays, identity theft is another real threat for victims of burglary. Modern burglars have taken to searching through your belongings for any kind of personal information—social security numbers, credit cards, bank account information—to sell to bigger crime outfits. What’s worse is that it’s not always immediately apparent that they’ve found what they were looking for. You never know if they simply took a picture of your information, ripped a check from your checkbook, or found one of your old bank statements. So, even if you had your wallet on you, or all your credit cards and personal documents are safe and accounted for, cancel everything. It’s better to be safe than sorry.  Call your bank and credit card companies as soon as possible to report the incident and cancel or change all your accounts.

8. Rethink Your Security

After a break-in or burglary, it’s common, and imperative, that you rethink your security measures. What failed and how can you prevent it from failing again? A good place to start this process would be by replacing and upgrading the burglar’s point of entry. If the burglar broke in through a door, consider getting reinforced doors that have deadbolts or smart locks. Window security can be improved by installing window pin locks, applying safety film, or upgrading to bullet proof security glass. If the point of entry was a different location, like your garage, crawl space, or basement, or if you just want to add another layer of security, consider installing a home security system. Home security and monitoring systems will allow you to keep watch over your home anywhere, anytime, and alert you as soon as any suspicious activity occurs.

9. Take Time To Get Back To Normal

The helplessness and violation of having your personal property invaded can be traumatic. And even with upgraded security measures in place, it will still take some time, and perhaps outside help, to recover and regain a stable sense of safety. Talking things out and keeping a positive attitude can also help overcome the situation. Just remember, the well-being of you and your family should be the top priority. Material possessions can always be replaced, so long as you and your loved ones are unharmed, everything will right itself eventually. SEE ALSO: Top 50 Home Security Tips From The Experts As crucial as it is to do everything you can to protect your home and prevent a burglary from ever happening, it’s equally as important to be ready in case it ever happens. Now that you know what to expect after a burglary, you’re better prepared to get through the process, or perhaps even help someone you know recover from the ordeal. Now would also be a good time to make sure your security measures are up to par and find out what your home insurance will cover in the event of a burglary.
Date of original publication:
Updated on: November 10, 2015

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