By Lori Melton
Coming home to find your house has been broken into is a frightening experience. Most likely you’ll run through a range of emotions including fear, anger and shock before you begin to process what happened and think about what you should do. Here are some tips to follow if you should ever find yourself in this distressing and unfortunate situation.
Call the Police
If you’re wondering whether you should call the police, the answer is yes. This is the first thing you should do. You’ll need to file a police report if you file an insurance claim against the missing items. Plus, you’ll want the authorities involved to help you find the thief and hopefully retrieve any of your stolen goods.
Note: If you’re outside your house when you discover the break in, DO NOT go into the house to call the police. In fact, you should wait until they arrive and deem it safe for you to enter before you go in at all.
Don’t Touch Anything
When your home has been broken into, it becomes a crime scene. It’s really important that you DO NOT touch anything without clearance from the police. You could unwittingly taint crucial evidence if you touch anything or move anything from the way the burglar left it.
Make a List of Missing Items
Once the police arrive and clear you to enter the house, you should make a list of any noticeable missing or stolen items. Be as thorough as you can in your description – list colors, brands, model numbers and anything else you can think of that would identify the items as yours. You also need to record an approximate value of each item on the list. Make several copies of this list to give to the police, the insurance company and to keep for your records.
Contact Your Insurance Company
Call your insurance company as soon as you’ve been given an official police report and compiled a complete list of stolen goods. Your homeowner’s or rental insurance can hopefully help you recover some of your losses. Most insurance companies will send an adjuster to your home to assess damages and calculate losses. Once again, it’s really important not to touch anything at the scene so you don’t inadvertently tamper with evidence.
Check Security Footage
Video surveillance footage could be an invaluable aid to the police investigation of the robbery. If you have a home security system that includes cameras, check all of the recent activity in the time leading up to the robbery discovery. If you’re frazzled following a break in, you might not immediately think of doing this simple step. The footage could provide critical clues to the thief’s identity, help determine the time of the robbery and maybe help identify exactly what was taken.
After the police and insurance company are done surveying the scene, getting your house back in order will help you begin to move forward from a terrible incident. Fixing broken windows, doors, and any other damaged points of entry as soon as possible will help secure your home against further invasions. Cleaning up broken glass and scattered items might help also prevent injuries. Keep track of all repair expenses in case your insurance company will reimburse you for them.
Seek Emotional Support
A home invasion is a shocking, traumatic event that can leave you feeling violated, scared and unsettled about being in your home after it’s over. It may be a while before you feel safe in your own home again and all of these feelings are normal. Lean on friends, family members, clergy or a professional counselor if you feel like you need help moving forward. Talking about your experience and expressing your feelings can be a key part of your emotional recovery.
Tighten Up Security
Finally, you might want to consider taking extra security measures around your home after a break-in. Doing things like installing an alarm or monitoring system, security cameras, extra deadbolts, nails in wooden window frames, getting a dog and joining a neighborhood watch are great things you can do to enhance home security and help prevent future break-ins.