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 7 key steps you should take immediately following a break-in:
- Get to a predetermined safe zone with your family.
- Call the police and let them clear the crime scene.
- Make a list of all items that have been taken.
- Assist the police investigation.
- 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.
If you know that an intruder is in your house, the very first thing you need to do is remain calm. Don’t make noises, and don’t let the intruder know that you’re aware of their presence.
This is important for many reasons: You don’t know how many people are now in your home, what their intentions are, and how they will react to you.
As long as the intruders don’t know that you’re in the home or awake, you have an advantage. You can use this advantage to gather up your family members, find a safe place in your home, lock the doors, and put a physical barrier between you and whomever just broke into your home. Even better, leave the house altogether and meet at the rendezvous point where your family has planned to meet in an emergency.
The worst thing you can do when you realize there’s an intruder is to confront him or her directly or alert them your position. This forces that intruder to decide whether to run or attack you.
2) Call the police.
When you and your loved ones are in a safe location, call the police.
If you have a home security system and alarm monitoring in place, the police should already be on their way. Still, calling 911 may help dispatchers better understand the situation so they can respond appropriately. Make sure you tell the 911 operator the following information:
- Your home address
- Your name
- Everything you know about the intruder:
- How many intruders there are
- Where they are inside your house
- Their appearance
- Whether they’re armed
As you call, remember to stay as quiet as possible if you are still in the house. Do not leave the room or make noise. After the police are notified, wait for officers to arrive and handle the situation.
3) Take inventory.
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.
A home 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 (but don’t touch anything!), 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.
4) Assist the police investigation.
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.
5) 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.
6) Repair damage caused by 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.
7) Make a plan to prevent future break-ins.
The best way to deal with a burglary is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Take steps to ensure that your home is just too much of a hassle for an average intruder to break into. Check out our list of home security tips to help get you started.
Whether it’s a home invasion, fire, hurricane, earthquake, or any other disaster, you should have a plan in place in case it happens to you.
Your plan needs to include clear instructions for each family member. Determine which escape routes are best for each person and where the safe rendezvous point is outside of your home.
In most cases, having your rally point be outdoors or at a neighboring home is safest when the danger is inside your home, but this depends on the layout and location of your residence.
Studies have shown that homes without monitored security systems are three times more likely to be targeted by burglars, so consider installing alarm systems to reduce the risk of burglary.
To ensure that you get immediate help if your home is broken into, contact an alarm company like Alarm New England to further deter burglars and keep your family safe.
By understanding how potential intruders will gain entry into your home, you can prevent future break-ins. In addition to speaking with security experts about protecting your home, 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?
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.