Living through a robbery is tough. But with the right approach, you can move past the trauma and into a safer, more secure future.
Do this first
Signs of robbery are hard to ignore. Broken glass, scattered possessions, open windows and muddy footsteps all point to the presence of an intruder. Your first instinct may involve cleanup. You may rush into the area to see what’s left and what’s remaining. It’s an understandable response, but it’s not the right approach.
Experts suggest that you should leave the scene immediately and call the police from a safe spot, like your car. This serves two important purposes:
- You won’t contaminate the scene. Police officers may want to dust for fingerprints, measure shoe prints and otherwise look for clues. The more you move things around, the harder that work will be.
- You won’t put yourself in danger. Has your robber left the scene? You may not be sure. If you stay to find out, you could get hurt.
Most robbers would do almost anything to avoid meeting you. In fact, researchers suggest that 75 percent of burglars will abandon a robbery attempt if they thought someone was coming home. But a trapped robber can quickly become a dangerous opponent.
If you walk in on a robbery and you catch someone holding your precious items, that criminal could harm you to get away. Some might push you or press by you, but others might resort to violent attacks.
The numbers may have shifted since then, but the message remains the same. Criminals are dangerous, and you shouldn’t try to stop them on your own without getting hurt.
When the police arrive, they will clear the area and tell you when it’s safe to enter. They may ask questions about when you think the incident happened, and you might be asked to describe big-ticket items you’re missing.
The police will file an official report of the burglary, and officers will give you a case number. Make sure you write that number down if it’s not printed on any paperwork they give you. You will need that number to complete other steps we’ll mention here.
Within 24 hours
The tasks you take on the first day help you understand what is missing, and some of the work you do here can help you prevent the next break-in.
- Call your insurance company before you take any steps to repair your property. Your policy could cover broken windows, smashed doors and other structural damage. If you rent, your landlord’s insurance company may get involved, so your first call should be to the number on your lease. Your insurance company will, in all likelihood, require the case number given to you by the police. That proves you called the authorities and that someone is looking for your missing items. Some insurance companies will send adjusters to your home to examine the damage. Others will ask you to provide photographs of the scene. Follow the instructions you’re given.
- You’ll need to make a list of everything stolen. If possible, grab receipts to prove how much you paid for the items you’re missing. If not, make accurate assessments of how long you’ve had each piece and how much it might be worth. Your insurance company may have a form for you to fill out. If your thieves took personal information, you could be at risk for identity or credit theft. They may take the following:
- Credit cards
- Driver’s licenses
- Once you have the approval to do so, repair windows, doors and other broken points of entry. Plywood can be a good temporary solution for broken windows, but most doors will require substantial help. Hire a handyman to do that work for you if you don’t feel up to the task on your own. This step can help keep opportunists out of your home while you recover. In some cases, it can help to prevent additional damage. Rain flying through an open window, for example, could create more problems for you to fix.
- With your home secure, turn your attention to your medicine cabinet. Thieves often look here for expensive drugs to either take or sell, and that can be a hassle for you if they take a medication you rely upon. Some doctors take a hard stance about prescription theft, and they will not give you a new order when your pills are stolen. But you may be able to prove the theft with the case number from the police and photographic evidence from your house. Be prepared to show you’re the victim so you can get your refill.
- Contact your bank to report the theft, and be prepared to dispute any charges against your account. Your police report should include an approximation of the time of the crime, and that can help you fight back.
- Next, contact credit-reporting agencies, and ask for a security alert. This is a red flag for lenders that you’ve been a victim of a crime, and it can keep your burglars from opening up loans in your name. You’ll get reports about your credit, and you should read those carefully and contest any fraud you see.
Within the week
Protect your home from future theft, and make sure you don’t become the victim of another crime. These should be your goals within the week after your burglary.
Criminals know that most homeowners have insurance, and they know that most people replace items that are taken. As a result, many crooks come back to the scene for a second attack when they think there will be new loot to steal.
Choosing the right security system takes time, and you may not be able to install a complete solution in a week. But you can take small steps to protect your home. You can install the following:
These solutions come together in minutes, and they can be a powerful deterrent against another crime.
Your lost items may appear in pawn shops and online auction sites within the week of the burglary. Look for the things you’re missing, and file a report when you spot them. You could give the police the evidence they need to convict your robber.
Within the month
The memories of your robbery may begin to fade, but you still have a few steps to take to ensure you’re as safe as you can be.
Investing in a robust security system is a smart next step. Considering that about two-thirds of thieves return to a prior robbery site to take more, those who don’t change a security approach are almost always destined for another hit.
Work with a reputable company to improve your security. Provide that company with copies of your robbery report, and show your installation team photos of the crime. They can help to pinpoint the vulnerabilities that led to the original issue, and they can find other spots that need extra protection.
Next, talk to your neighbors about your robbery. Research suggests that the two months after your crime are a point of increased risk for people who live about 600 feet from you. Make sure your neighbors take the same security precautions you take.
You may never regain all of the possessions you’ve lost, but with these steps, you may get back your peace of mind.