What to Do After a Burglary

You've been burglarized. Now what?

Burglaries are unsettling and scary, and unfortunately, you have to act quickly to deal with them properly. The actions you take immediately following a break in can make a difference in catching the burglar, completing your insurance claim, and regaining peace of mind and safety at home. Even if you think you know what to do, in the moments following a burglary, you may be filled with panic and completely forget. If you've been burglarized, follow these tips to take care of your home and family after a break in.

  • Never enter your home if you suspect a break in: If you come home to a broken window or door and you suspect a burglary, do not go inside. The burglar may still be inside, creating a dangerous situation. Or, you may be mistaken for an intruder if police have been called by a neighbor and are already on their way. The safest place to be is inside a neighbor's house or inside your car with the doors locked and the engine running.
  • Escape or hide if you're inside during a burglary: If a burglar hits your home while you're still inside it, the best thing to do is escape immediately without confrontation. If that's not possible, hide. Avoid the master bathroom or living areas if possible, as burglars will typically hit these rooms. Secondary bedrooms are a safer choice.
  • Call the police immediately to file a report: Get help from the authorities as soon as you can, calling them immediately. Do not go into your home to make the call.
  • Write down and share everything you know with police: While you're waiting for the police, write down any details you can remember about the incident that you might forget, especially license plate numbers, vehicle descriptions, intruder descriptions, and where they went if you happened to see him or her fleeing the scene. Explain when the burglary happened, any contractors or unusual visitors you've had in your home, and anything else you can remember.
  • Don't touch anything until police arrive: Police will arrive to inspect your home for evidence. If you clean up glass or otherwise disturb the scene, you may destroy evidence needed to find and prosecute the burglar.
  • Take photographs: Take photographs and video of the crime scene so that you can document what was stolen or damaged. You'll need this for your insurance company, and it can help the police as well.
  • Make a list of stolen items: With the help of the police, make a list of items that were stolen with a description and value of each of them. Be thorough: remember that not everything a burglar has stolen may be immediately obvious. Remember to check safes and jewelry drawers in particular. Make a copy of the list for your insurance company.
  • Ask for a copy of the police report: Some police departments will give you a copy of the report automatically, but you may have to request it with others. Having a copy of the report will be helpful for your insurance claim, so be sure to ask.
  • Obtain video footage if available: If you have a camera in your home that captured video footage of the break in, be sure to share it with police and save it for your insurance company.
  • Ask your neighbors for help: Inform your neighbors about the burglary and ask them if they saw anything, such as an usual person or a vehicle near your home. Share this information with the police and your insurance company. It's also important to talk to your neighbors so that they know to be on the alert in case the burglar targets their homes next.
  • Call your insurance company: Contact your insurance company as soon as you can to submit necessary documentation and file a claim. Most insurance companies will require that you contact them within 24 hours of the incident and submit all information that you shared with the police to process your claim with a claims adjuster.
  • Contact your bank and other financial institutions: If a burglar got access to your checks, credit cards, or other financial information, be sure to contact the institution to close accounts and get replacement cards.
  • Clean up and repair broken items: If your window was smashed or your door damaged, call a professional to help you fix them. Your insurance company will likely be able to help you with emergency repairs. You may also need to clean up items that have been thrown into disarray or remove markings from your floors or walls.
  • Check local pawn shops and online sales: Burglars will often sell your stolen goods not far from home. Contact pawn shops to look for your items and search online, checking Craigslist, eBay, and even Facebook garage sale groups.
  • Protect your home from further break ins: A break in is a clear sign that your security leaves something to be desired. And after a burglary, thieves know you'll probably have new replacements for the items they stole the first time, making your home a target yet again. The first step is changing your locks. You should also identify your home's weak points and strengthen your security. It's best if you ask a security installation professional to perform an assessment on your home and make recommendations for steps you can take to improve your security. You should also remember to take photos of valuables and record serial numbers -- just in case you're targeted again.
  • Get emotional help: It's normal to feel violated after a burglary. The emotional scars from a burglary can be more difficult to repair than the damage to your home. Consider taking a day or two off of work if possible to gather your emotions and take care of business with the police, insurance company, and repair personnel. If you're having trouble getting past the emotional damage of a burglary, seek psychiatric help. Aside from professional help, consider making changes like painting or rearranging furniture to get a fresh start.

Photo by Flickr user jpott