Your home is a sanctuary from the outside world, and having that sanctity breached by criminals can be traumatic. If the worst happens, there are some key actions which will help to minimize the impact on you and your family.
Burglary is one of the most common crime types, and one which is on the rise in Western countries. This is partly because people now have more things which are worth stealing, but also because burglarizing a home is an easy route to fast cash. Whilst this type of crime can’t be prevented on every occasion, there are numerous immediate actions which will help to lessen its impact.
If you discover that your home has been burglarized, call the police immediately. This sounds obvious, but many people become fixated with missing property and don’t consider the many reasons for alerting law enforcement as soon as possible.
Firstly, the burglars may still be on the premises so alerting the police is an eminently sensible safety precaution. Secondly, if not on the premises, the culprits may still be in the area and the sooner the police can start investigating the more likely an arrest will be. Thirdly, a crime has been committed and evidence will be available which can quickly degrade, such as fingerprints, footprints, tool marks, and DNA. So don’t waste time, put the call in straightaway.
Locate Family Members
Contact family members and anybody else you expect to have been home when the burglary was committed. This is primarily to ensure that they are safe and well; at this stage it is impossible to know whether the incident is a simple burglary or something more sinister, but it’s also an opportunity to forewarn your family and reassure them before they arrive home.
With your loved ones accounted for, you are now likely to be waiting for the police to arrive. If for some reason you’ve already entered your property, take extra care not to touch or disturb anything—evidence may be present in seemingly innocuous forms.
Take extra care with anything you discover that’s foreign to your home. Burglars do occasionally leave their own belongings behind, and an item such as a dropped cell phone will be an evidence and intelligence goldmine for law enforcement.
If you keep firearms in your property, check them, and any ammunition, as a first priority and inform the police as soon as possible if they have been stolen.
Following a burglary, it is quite common for properties to be left in a state of disarray; the burglars may have been franticly searching for items of value or simply made a mess because they could. Despite this, it is very important to focus and ensure you know exactly what has been taken. Do your checks systematically by going room to room and logging anything that has been stolen, damaged, or disturbed.
For stolen property, remember to include serial numbers and identifying features where possible. In addition to obvious items of high value or personal significance, take care to check the security of other items which could have a broader impact:
- Identity documents: birth certificate, passport and driving license.
- Bank cards and financial statements.
- Data sticks and hard drives.
Get a Crime Reference Number
You will need this for your insurance company and bank, but it’s also useful if you need to contact the police with updates afterwards.
Check and Secure
You may well be able to identify the entry and egress points used during the burglary—they’re often one and the same—but remember that these may not be the only ones. Other entry points may have been prepped for a potential return.
Conduct a thorough security inspection of your home and make sure that all potential points of entry are secure. If possible, ask attending police officers to take a look around and offer some professional advice, but remember to do this after they have completed their initial investigation.
Inform Your Insurance Company
If you have an insurer, be sure to contact them as soon as possible with a crime reference number and details of the crime. The call taker will then guide you through further actions.
Inform Your Neighbors
This is not only the decent thing to do, but also an effective way of gathering intelligence; your neighbors may have witnessed something which could prove useful to the police. Perhaps they saw somebody carrying large bags and thought nothing of it, or maybe they noticed an unknown vehicle parked in the street the day before. If you don’t ask, you won’t know and communication is key.
If your neighbors do have potentially useful information, be sure to have them speak to law enforcement as soon as possible. Even if they don’t, informing them of the burglary will at least make them more alert, thereby enhancing you community vigilance.
Reassure Your Family
Once everything has calmed down, take some time to speak to your family and make sure they’re okay. A burglary can be a traumatic experience, particularly for younger members of the family, and some calm reassurance can go a long way. This can be achieved by explaining how most burglars only target empty homes and how the changes you are making will prevent them from ever coming back.
In reality, you can’t completely guarantee this, but it’s important to understand and limit the psychological impacts of criminal activity. For most people, the fear of crime is far more of a problem than crime itself, and this can have a life-limiting effect if left unchecked.
Enhance Your Protective Security
In the aftermath of the burglary, review your home security and work-up a protective security strategy. This should include layered defenses working from the outside in, and include considerations such as: fencing, approaches, security of entry points, alarm systems, and signage, amongst others.
You can find detailed guidance on this in our pervious article: What vulnerabilities do burglars look for when casing a home?