May 6, 2019
What to Do After Someone Breaks Into Your House
My House Was Robbed: Now What?
7 immediate steps to take after your home was robbed
It’s a nightmare we hope you never actually experience: coming home to discover that your home was robbed. Criminals rifled through your personal belongings, stole your valuables, and violated your privacy. Windows may be broken, and furniture may be smashed—the burglars may even have harmed your pets.
A burglary takes place every 18 seconds in the U.S., according to the National Center for Victims of Crime. That translates into nearly 200 every hour and about 4,800 every day. A home break-in is a frightening experience, and it can leave you overwhelmed by feelings of shock, vulnerability, and panic.
Knowing what you should do after a burglary in your house is essential to keeping a cool head and picking up the pieces as quickly as possible.
1. Call the police after a burglary in your house.
It seems like an obvious first step, but many people’s gut reaction after such a traumatic event is to call a significant other or parent. Of course, you should—but only after you’ve safely left the house and know the police are heading to the scene.
Wait outside in your locked car or with a neighbor until the police arrive and can make sure the burglars are gone. Don’t risk destroying important evidence by touching anything or cleaning up—and don’t play hero. No possession is worth a serious injury or your life.
Even if you can say with 100% certainty that the criminals are long gone, it’s still important to immediately call the police. The faster you report home break-ins and file a police report, the better your chances of recovering your belongings and expediting insurance claims. It also ups the chances that the police will catch the criminals who robbed you, which keeps your entire community safe.
2. Don’t panic.
Staying calm after your house is broken into is easier said than done. But responding with a clear head makes it much more likely that you will effectively handle the burglary. Once you are safe, take a few minutes to breathe and focus on your next steps. Recognize any positives, such as no one being home during the break-in, if you have good insurance, or perhaps your real valuables were in a safe. Refusing to give into panic can help you regain control of an unfortunate situation.
3. Document everything after a home break-in.
After the police collect their evidence, it’s time to inventory damaged and missing items. Walk through your home and take pictures of anything that’s damaged, and jot down what’s been stolen. Be sure to check on valuables burglars are most likely to steal, such as electronics, jewelry, cameras, guns, and musical instruments.
Burglaries are exceptionally hard crimes to solve—the FBI reports that less than 14% of cases lead to arrests. The more information you can give the police—from serial numbers for electronics to tracking apps on a smart device—the better the odds that some of your stolen goods will be recovered. Keeping receipts and photographing valuables when you buy them is also wise for recovery and insurance purposes. If you don’t have pictures, try drawing missing items and note special markings to give the police a better description.
It also doesn’t hurt to check pawn shops in your area or online selling sites in case anything of yours turns up.
4. Check on your pets.
If the burglar left a door or gate open, your furry friend may have crept out to hide. As soon as you can enter your home, make sure your pets are safe and accounted for. Check for injuries and watch for signs of poisoning or overeating; it’s not unusual for burglars to distract barking dogs with food. Be mindful of broken glass that can injure paws and find pets a safe place while the police investigate.
5. Contact your insurance agent to report the burglary.
Most insurers place a limit on how long you can wait to file a claim after a home break-in. So, as soon as you feel confident that you've documented many of your damaged or missing items, contact your insurance agent.
While the list should be detailed and itemized, it does not have to be complete. There will be opportunities to update your claim as the situation unfolds. If possible, it’s helpful to include exact or estimated values for each item, as well as receipts, serial numbers, photos, or any other information that can verify ownership and condition.
You also don’t need to wait until you have a copy of the police report to file a claim. It will, however, move the process along if you can provide helpful details such as the police report number, the law enforcement agency that took the report, the date it was filed, and the name of the officer. If your losses weren’t extensive, you could manage your claims online or by phone. But if the burglars stole many of your belongings or inflicted significant damage on your home, your insurer may send a claims adjuster to investigate.
6. Fix emergent home security problems.
If the burglars stole your credit or debit cards or discovered personal information you keep in your house, call your financial institutions to cancel or temporarily freeze your accounts. You should also quickly make any emergency repairs needed to re-secure your home, such as replacing windows or changing locks.
7. Step up your home security.
Unfortunately, there’s truth to the old saying: criminals return to the scene of the crime. One out of every three burglarized houses are hit again by the same thief, who’s now familiar with the home and knows its owners will replace many valuables quickly.
Think about how the burglar broke into your home and fix whatever made it an easy target.
Simple steps to enhance security after a burglary in your house
Lock your doors and windows. It’s important to lock your front and back doors at all times, even if you’re home. Thirty-four% of burglars stroll right through your front door. Windows should be locked as well but if you do open them, consider bars or screw locks so they can’t be opened wide enough for someone to crawl through.
Burglar-proof your doors. Flimsy doors are more appealing to burglars than windows, as kicking them in draws less attention than breaking glass. Exchange hollow-core wood doors on your home’s exterior with metal-insulated or solid wood. You may also want to consider installing deadbolt locks or deadlocks to make it harder for people to break in.
Give thieves no place to hide. Leave your porch light on all night to reduce shadowy areas in front of your house where burglars can lurk. Trim bushes and trees near windows and entryways so individuals can’t use them to hide. Motion-sensor floodlights also help keep trespassers at bay.
Install an alarm and a home security system. Burglars look for homes that offer the biggest reward for the least effort—and the lowest chance of getting caught. Alarms and security systems not only serve as deterrents, but if they’re connected to a home security service, they bring the police to your home quickly.
The emergence of smart security systems makes it even easier to secure your home. These cutting-edge systems use highly customizable wireless and cellular technology that enables you to monitor your home from pretty much anywhere through mobile apps, alerts, live video, and home automation. Many use automation to keep you safe—for instance, lights turn on if motion is detected and a camera starts recording if a sensor is triggered. The smartest and most convenient systems don’t even require professionals or tools to install them.
A whopping 60% of convicted burglars said the presence of a security system drove their decision to target a different home. And here’s another bonus: security systems are also likely to lower your homeowners insurance rate—in some cases, up to 20%.
The fear and shock that follows discovering your home is a crime scene can make it difficult to think clearly about what to do next. But taking time to carefully plot a course of action maximizes your chances of recovering your stolen items or recouping your losses from the insurance company. Following these seven steps will help you make your house feel like home again—and reclaim your peace of mind.