My House Was Broken Into. What Do I Do?

In addition to suffering property damage and losing irreplaceable items, the emotional toll of a burglary is overwhelming. To help you and your family cope, we’ve put together this guide that includes steps to take after a house break-in has occurred, and tips to help you avoid being a victim once again.

What to do if your house is broken into

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1. Leave the house and call 911

While most burglars will run the moment they hear you approach, some will hide in your home and could pose an incredible threat to your family’s safety. 

If you arrive home and think your home has been burglarized, get out immediately. Do not look for the thief.

Then, call 911. You don’t need to confirm that items have been stolen to contact police.

If you are not in the house when you discover it has been robbed, do not go into your home to make the phone call.

What to do after an attempted break in

Even if the intruder doesn't get in, you should still call 911. The person may come back. The police presence will scare away lurkers and the authorities will gather information to help catch the potential intruder. Adding a security system or cameras with sirens and lights to your home can keep you safe in the future.

2. Don't touch anything

Some burglars wear gloves, but not all do. Resist opening jewelry drawers and touching anything inside your home.  Fingerprints are powerful prosecutors, but they are delicate and can easily be destroyed. Until police have given you the okay to do so, don’t touch anything. Make police aware if you find something that may belong to the intruder, but don’t touch it.

3. Wait in a safe place

Find shelter in a neighbor’s house, or get back in your car and lock the doors until police arrive. Make note of any unfamiliar people or cars you might see near your home, jotting down physical descriptions and license plates numbers. Often, what seems out of place is, and your seemingly unimportant information could help police track down the criminal.

4. Take inventory of the house break-in

Image: Photo Ketut Subiyanto, Pexels

When the police arrive, make a complete list of all valuables that have been taken, including a thorough description and the approximate value of each. You may even want to draw pictures and include any unique identifying marks. You’ll also want to write down the make, model and serial numbers of electronics. 

Take pictures of damaged property, such as door and windows, and also items inside your home like tables, lamps, and even knick-knacks that have been damaged.

Before you can file an insurance claim, you’ll need to file the police report, so getting your list written as quickly, yet as comprehensively as possible, is important.

Also, if you saw anybody exit your residence, write down any descriptive information you can, including sex, age, race, clothing, identifiable marks, and the direction they went after leaving your home.

What do police do after a break in

Police officers have a general routine they go through after a call about a break in:

  • They will take statements from the homeowner and any witnesses.
  • Evidence will be collected (fingerprints, items left behind, security camera footage).
  • The evidence is compared to evidence from other local incidents to look for patterns. 
  • Suspects are questioned and possibly arrested. 

5. Call the insurance company

Whether you have homeowner’s insurance or renter’s insurance, there is a chance that you could recoup a decent amount for what was stolen. You need to file a claim, though. Call within 24 hours and make sure you have submitted all necessary information to the police, as the insurance company will need that information to process your claim.

They will likely send over a claims adjuster to investigate the claim in person, so if that is the case, you may want to stay elsewhere until the adjuster can come out so you don’t accidentally clean up or tamper with important evidence.

6. View video footage of the break-in

Hidden camera footage

Should you already have security cameras in place around your home, you may have the ability to view the video footage of the break-in itself. Emotionally prepare yourself, as it can be even more violating to actually see the burglar(s) break in on camera.

Take this footage to the police and your insurance company as further documented proof. Use the footage to determine where the security weaknesses are in your home so that you can begin to figure out where you need to increase safety measures to prevent any future occurrences.

7. Take care of the kids and fur babies

Many parents find that it’s best to have their children stay with friends or relatives until their home has been put back in order. While this isn't always possible, it’s a good idea.

The wreckage some burglars create is unimaginable and your children (regardless of their age) will be overcome with emotion when they find their “safe place” has been ruined by a stranger.

Believe it or not, pets also react to a burglary. You may find Fido hiding in a corner or insisting on jumping into your bed. Everyone in your family will need extra TLC after a burglary, including you.

8. Clean up all signs of the break-in

Image: RODNAE Productions, Pexels

Putting your home back in order will help you start to regain your sense of control, and is the first step to enjoying life as you once knew it. Ask friends and family to help, because the task will be an emotional one, especially if your home was ransacked.

Remember, if you come by an item that’s not yours, report it to police. It could be an item that helps police catch the burglar, or connect them to another crime.

9. Take measures to better safeguard your home

woman checking on home security system via app on smartphone

Nothing you do will 100% guarantee your home (and your family’s) security, but a few things can help reduce the chance you’ll suffer another burglary. You must be proactive and educate yourself on your home security options.

Today more than ever, there are a wealth of effective, affordable security plans to choose from. We’ve put together this easy to understand security system finder tool to help you get started.

And mobile apps that are compatible with your home security system abound, and offer added comfort. 

 Here are some more ideas:

Don’t hesitate to ask a law enforcement official to come to your home and conduct a security survey, too. Most agencies are glad to send an officer to your home, and it won’t cost you a cent.

While the police officer is there, it’s a good time to pick their brain on other ways you can protect your family’s safe haven and inquire about crime in your neighborhood.

You’ll also want to make a list of all make, model and serial numbers for electronics, and take pictures of your most expensive or irreplaceable items. Keep in mind that many police jurisdictions will serialize your items at no charge.

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Security systems work

Homes without a security system are 2.7 to 3.5 times more likely to be burglarized, according to a report by Greenwich Study of Residential Security. 

Two of the best deterrents to crime—and which may help you feel safest the fastest following your break-in—are a home security system and alarm monitoring. A home security system includes anything from door and window alarms to motion sensor lights, security cameras, and dog barking alarms. These are a great first step toward making you feel safer in your home.

To take it one step further, alarm monitoring brings an external company into the mix who will be as interested in safeguarding your home, family, and belongings as you are. Should a break-in happen when you’re either there or away, the alarm monitoring will alert you and the proper authorities to make sure the burglary is prevented or stopped as best as possible.

With these tools, you’ll be much less likely to have to ask yourself, “My house was broken into. What do I do?” If you were recently burglarized, we understand how vulnerable you must feel and how much you want to secure your home so this never happens to you again. Our best recommendation to make this happen is to get a home security system.

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Celeste Tholen
Written by
Celeste Tholen
Celeste has dedicated her decade-long career to reporting and reviews that help people make well-informed decisions. She oversees editorial strategy and production for SafeWise, with a goal to help everyone find the information they need to make their homes and lives safer. Prior to SafeWise, she worked as an editor and reporter for KSL and Deseret News. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Journalism. In her free time, she volunteers at the local botanical garden and writers for the community newspaper.

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