What to Do If You Come Home to Evidence of a Break-In

Coming home to find out that your home has been burglarized can be one of the most traumatic experiences in a person’s life. Not only can you now be missing valuables and cash, but the feeling of being violated can also be overpowering. Your first instinct is probably to explore your home to find out what is missing and begin to clean up what is probably a very big mess, but in many ways this will actually do more harm than good. Here is what you should do if you find yourself the victim of a break in.

home security

Call 911:

The first thing you must do if you think you’re the victim of a break in is leave the premises and call the police. This helps them help you as you are not disturbing a crime-scene and are removing yourself from danger in the event that the burglar is still on the scene. This is when your emotions will likely be running their highest, causing you to either go room to room hoping to find the perpetrator or to begin cleaning any messes left behind, but leaving the scene until the police arrive to do a walk-through allows the police to do one of the many jobs they are trained to do, and also keeps you out of harm’s way.

If you have friend, family member or friendly neighbor in the area, you may want to call them to come and stay with you until the police arrive. This will help greatly with the emotional turmoil you are most likely feeling, and having a comforting presence with you can do wonders in keeping you calm for the reality of the situation when the cruiser pulls up at your door.

When they arrive, the police will do a walk-through of the premises, and they will be taking notes for a police report. This is essential for when you contact your insurance company to report your stolen property and document any damage the burglar may have caused. When a burglar enters your home, they work fast and they don’t care if they make a mess.

burglar alarm

Call Your Insurance Company:

Hopefully you have homeowners or renters insurance. This is likely the only way you will get financial recompense for your missing items. Make sure to have pictures of anything of value that you own, and keep the receipts of your high-ticket items. It's important to have your jewelry appraised or reappraised with some regularity. This will ensure that you can get back the monetary value of your jewelry in today’s dollars, and not when they were purchased. Too often, a grandparent’s wedding ring can be stolen, but it was bought in the 1950’s, and although the sentimental value is priceless, it may be worth a lot more today that it was when originally purchased.

Scour Local Pawn Shops:

Luckily, most – if not all – states require an I.D. when trading items for cash at a pawn shop. If you have pictures (and receipts!) of the items, it will be much easier to retrieve them from the Pawn Shop. Any pawn shop will gladly return all stolen goods proven to be yours if accompanied by a police report. That is about the only reason reputable pawn shops can remain in business.

home security

Search the Internet:

To start, search websites such as Craigslist to see if anyone is trying to sell your belongings online. If you find anything you believe to be yours, contact the police who filed the police report and they will do their best to investigate and hopefully get your goods returned to you. Again, pictures and receipts are an invaluable tool in hopefully returning what was stolen from you.

Talk to Friends and Family Members:

Talking is important to the healing process. A burglary is a violation of your personal space. Many victims of a burglary get over the loss of their property, but the emotional trauma of having a stranger in your home can be emotionally damaging. Your friends and family can be a crucial resource in helping you overcome the fear, anger and hopelessness of being violated in such a way. Talking through how you will feel at any given moment to a sympathetic ear can help you overcome almost anything, including a burglary.

Take Steps to Prevent it from Happening Again:

Take a look around the outside of your home and see what may have made it an attractive target in the first place. Make sure to trim hedges that may block the window that the burglar entered through. If you go away, make sure to have a friend or neighbor take in your mail. Piles of newspapers and mail signal to a burglar that the home is unoccupied at the moment. Put your lamps and a television on timer-switches so it looks like people are home, going through their daily routines.

alarm system

Most importantly, invest in a home security system. An alarm system is a great tool to minimize the amount of time they are willing to stick around. Once that siren goes off, the burglar will think twice about even entering your home, let alone stealing anything. When monitored, the police will be notified well before you come home and find forced entry, hopefully increase the likelihood of getting your property returned, and possibly even getting one more criminal off the streets.