A home break-in is a traumatic experience that can leave victims feeling lost or vulnerable. Most people in this situation find themselves unprepared and unsure of what they need to do.
Should you ever find yourself in this situation, it’s important to keep a cool head and respond to the incident as quickly as possible.
These are the 5 key steps you should take immediately following a break-in:
Contact the authorities and let them investigate the crime scene.
Make a list of all items that have been taken.
Contact the insurance company and file a claim.
Repair any damage and clean up the place.
Make a plan to prevent future burglaries.
Let's go into these steps in more detail
1) Call the police.
Your safety comes first; the moment you realize your home has been broken into, call the police immediately. It’s likely that the perpetrators have not fled too far and may be in the vicinity.
By calling the police, you’re putting the incident on record – crucial for both insurance claims and getting your stuff back.
While you’re waiting for the police to arrive, leave the scene of the crime exactly how you found it. If you do touch anything, this may mess up key evidence that the police need for finding the burglar(s).
If you suspect the burglar is still inside your home, do not enter your home. Go to a neighbor’s house to call the police. Be prepared to provide your name, address, phone number and a brief description of the incident.
2) Make an inventory of all items that have been taken and file a police report.
Once the police have arrived, you can begin looking around and assessing the damage. Consider starting a folder and include in it everything relating to this burglary. The first item in this folder: an inventory of missing items.
Ahome inventory list may help you out in this case and help jog your memory of what you own. When creating a list of stolen or damaged items, include a thorough description and an approximate value of each.
Cash, jewelry, firearms and electronics are some of the most commonly stolen items during a burglary – so take extra care to inventory those items. Also, make an additional copy of the list, as one will be for your insurance company.
Remember everything you can about the scenario and try to jot down details as soon as possible. Despite the stressful circumstances, it’s important to record down descriptions while your memory is still fresh. Take photos of the crime scene, as these photos may be helpful for the insurance company so that they can assess the severity of the damage. If you saw anyone exit your residence, write down any descriptive information you can remember – for instance their age, appearance, clothing, and the direction they left in.
The police will ask questions as well, including questions about former occupants of the house – like previous roommates – or information about who has recently had access to your home. Be prepared to answer questions like this.
Do you have security camera footage? If you do and you’re able to emotionally prepare yourself before you watch the video, watch the footage of the break-in to see what other details you can gather on the intruders.
Relay to the police any information you know and also give them the footage. If you think of more items that are missing later on, be sure to let the police know.
Before the police leave, make sure you ask the investigating officer where you can obtain the police report. Write down your case number and make sure you have the names and badge numbers of the police officers responding.
3) Call the insurance company.
Try to call the insurance company within 24 hours of the crime. If you have a homeowner’s or renter’s insurance and you file a claim, there’s a good chance that you can recoup some of your losses.
When you do file a claim, make sure you have submitted all information to the police first since the insurance company will need a police report to process your claim.
The list need not be complete. However, make sure you understand what forms or documents you will need to support your claim. This may often include receipts for the items and product manuals or warranties.
When you give the insurance company any forms, make sure you keep a copy of it. You don’t want to give away your last or only copy of something!
The insurance company will probably send over a claims adjuster to take a look at your house. Since it helps accidentally tampering with evidence could cause complicate the process, stay at a relative’s or friend’s home until the adjuster can investigate your claim.
4) Clean up after the break-in.
It’s normal to feel emotionally vulnerable after the break-in, and the number of steps you need to take to start rebuilding your life can feel overwhelming. Once you’ve handled the legal side of things and taken care of the insurance claims, it’s time to get your home back in order.
Clean up everything that’s physically been broken – the glass on the floor, the items strewn about, etc. Hire repairmen to fix broken windows or doors, cover up markings on your walls and board up any holes left behind.
Order new credit cards, debit cards or checks if any of them were stolen. Reset online passwords to prevent hacking and identity theft if laptops or computers were stolen.
Make sure you keep records of the expenses you incur as a result of the burglary as it’s possible depending on your insurance policy, you may get some kind of reimbursement. Note on receipts what was purchased and write down details in an expense book. Include all information in your folder.
5) Make a plan to prevent future break-ins.
The reality is burglars look for the homes that offer the greatest reward for the least effort. One of the primary ways to make a burglar’s life difficult is by adding home security measures that serve as both a deterrent and an active countermeasure to get a fast police response.
By understanding how potential intruders will gain entry into your home, you can prevent future break-ins. Assess the weaknesses in your home by considering how the burglar gained access. Determine what caused the breach in the first place.
Did a lock break?
Did they go in through a window or door?
Did your alarm system go off the way it was supposed to?
It’s likely that he or she entered through a door or ground-floor window, so you should consider adding stronger locks and alarm sensors on both types of entryways.
Burglars can also take advantage of a number of vulnerabilities in your home – from low-light areas and foliage cover to faulty locks and knowledge of your daily schedule.
Other items you could consider are motion-sensitive lights for outside your doors – eliminating dark spaces for the intruders to hide.
Burglary statistics tell us that the majority of home burglaries happen during the day while homeowners are at work. When no one’s in the house, there are only two methods of security that have the highest chance of bringing the perpetrator to justice:
A reliable security system
Fast police response
Check out our Ultimate Guide to Home Security to learn more about home security tips, product recommendations, and guides to understanding how burglars operate.
Download the Ultimate Guide to Home Security and learn:
Top 5 misconceptions about home security
How to assess vulnerabilities in your home
Why home security is about more than preventing burglaries
Cutting-edge security equipment: how home security has changed