As a homeowner, you’ve just experienced one of the worst possible scenarios. The place where you and your family are supposed to feel the most secure has just been burglarized. Your entire world has been thrown into upheaval and all you can think about is whether you will ever feel safe in your own home again.
The FBI reported over 1.5 million burglaries took place in the United States in 2016 alone. That’s one home invasion every 10.5 seconds. Even more disturbing is the fact that many criminals will return to a house they’ve already robbed for the sake of ease and familiarity.
Despite how distressed and shaken up you are after a burglary, it’s essential you take the proper steps to not only address the situation at hand - but prevent future home invasions from occurring.
STEPS TO TAKE AFTER A HOME BURGLARY
Whether you fall into the 28% of victims who are present for a home invasion, or arrived to find your possessions already gone - here are the steps you should take after someone breaks into your house.
Within 24 Hours
Your home is now an active crime scene. Your first instinct will be to pick up the mess left by the offender, but don’t. Doing so may destroy key evidence that can lead to a conviction - and the possible recovery of your stolen items. Here’s what you should focus on instead:
- Call the police and file a report. As common-sense as this sounds, many break-ins go unreported.
- If you have a security camera already installed, review the footage and give it to the authorities ASAP.
- If you don't have security cameras, take photos of the scene (after the break-in) and attempt to collect photos of the scene prior to the break-in (this will allow you to prove items are actually missing and not "missing").
- Make a list of your missing items and be sure to include descriptions and approximate values of each one.
- Call your insurance company - stat! They will need to send a claims adjuster to your house to evaluate the damage before any repairs can be made. They will require your police report and other documentation such as receipts and the descriptions of your stolen property - so be sure to make copies of the originals and keep a set for yourself.
Within One Week
It’s been a few days since your home was burglarized. The police and your insurance company have both been by to collect evidence, take pictures, and get your statement. Now it’s time to start cleaning up - physically and emotionally. Here are steps you can take within the week after your home was robbed:
- Board up windows and broken doors until a handyman can come fix them. If the thought of an unrepaired entry point into your home makes you nervous, consider staying at a hotel or with a friend until it can be repaired correctly.
- If you had a security system in place, review the footage again. This time pay closer attention to how the thief entered your home and whether steps can be taken to prevent it from happening again.
- As hard as it is, try to regain a sense of peace in your home. Physically putting your house back together is an important step to moving past the break-in emotionally.
There are short- and long-term solutions you can take to improve the safety of your home and make sure a burglary doesn’t happen again. Restoring your confidence and peace of mind after a break-in should be your top priority. Here are steps you can take as the dust continues to settle.
- Add motion-activated lights to the exterior of your home. These will detect movement at night and illuminate your yard - a major turn off for would-be burglars.
- Always make sure your doors and windows are locked. Up to 30% of burglars enter a home without having to physically break in because of unlocked entry points.
- Lock up or hide your small valuables. The majority of intruders will head directly to the master bedroom because cash, jewelry and weapons are usually kept there.
- Putting a “Beware of Dog” or similar sign in your yard can also send a thief running in the other direction. While this isn’t a long-term solution, it can add a layer of security in the interim.
- Speaking of security - If you don’t already have a system or camera in place, it may be a good time to consider adding one. The University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology found that 60% of convicted burglars were deterred by the presence of a security system, leading them to target a different home.
For some, the only way to feel at peace in their home after a robbery is to have a security system installed. Whether or not you fall into this category, be sure to follow these steps and take proper measures to ensure you don’t become a repeat victim.