As traumatic experiences go, a home break-in is pretty high up on the list. The sense of violation and vulnerability can shake even the most confident and cool-headed people, and it is easy to feel overwhelmed and unsure of what to do. It’s important to collect yourself as best you can and do what you can to protect yourself and your family now and in the future.
It is critical to involve your local law enforcement immediately. Not only does this protect your personal safety, but a police report will be integral to filing any homeowner’s insurance claims. Furthermore, if you can’t verify no one is inside the house, you will want police officers present to go inside first. Your home is now a crime scene, and police officers all have more experience preventing contamination of evidence than you will.
After the police have verified no one is in your home who does not belong there, get out your Smartphone or a digital camera and start taking pictures of everything. The insurance company will want photographic evidence of everything as it was found at the time the break-in was discovered. The police will be taking photos as well, but you may not have access to them when you need them to file your insurance claim.
This point cannot be emphasized enough: do not touch anything in your home until after the police have finished processing the scene. Any contamination of evidence could adversely affect their case against the perpetrator, and defense attorneys are experts at exploiting loopholes for clients created by contaminated crime scenes. Be patient and wait for the police to finish with their job before you start to inventory your losses and clean up.
It’s common for doors and windows to be left open after a break-in. Dogs and cats may also flee or hide at the first opportunity if there is a stranger in the house, too. Do your best to locate them and verify their safety while the police work the scene.
Make a call to your insurance agent or homeowners’ insurance company to get your claims process started. They will ensure you get the proper forms started while the incident is still fresh in your mind. The police report will help fill in any gaps that may occur between their investigation and your personal account.
Take an inventory of everything missing or damaged in your home. Windows, door locks, stolen property, damaged goods and anything else broken, taken, or destroyed should be written down. You want this list to be as comprehensive as possible since it will be used to document your losses from the burglary. It may also surprise you how many types of property are covered by your homeowner’s insurance, too.
Don’t throw anything away! Even broken dishes may entitle you to compensation under your homeowner’s policy. You can’t document it if it ends up in the trash. Add it to your inventory, then store it away in case you need to show it as evidence later.
This includes receipts, invoices, statements and any other documentation that proves you are the legal owner of all property in your home. Your insurance company may not require it for every item you own, but big-ticket items like jewelry, gold, firearms and expensive LED TVs may require proof of ownership to receive compensation.
Even if none of your financial records of personal information has been compromised, call your bank and other financial institutions and notify them of the break-in. They can monitor for unusual activity and let you know immediately if someone attempts to use your personal data or banking information fraudulently.
Professional burglars like to break into homes in the same general area repeatedly. It’s much easier to case an entire neighborhood in advance and then pick off the best houses one by one. Letting your neighbors know about the break-in helps them secure their homes and take extra precautions, so they won’t be victimized as well. Additionally, if anyone witnessed anything regarding the crime at your home, you can direct them to the police officers assigned to your case to provide that information.
Investigating a burglary takes time and manpower, and your local police department is going to do the best they can. Using the information they have from the crime scene and any witnesses, they will continue to pursue your case until they cannot find any more leads on the identity and whereabouts of the suspect. It may not hurt to follow up with them in a few weeks if you don’t hear from them, but try to keep follow-up contact to a minimum. They will call you as soon as they have any new information about your case.
The psychological trauma of a home break-in can create a significant impact on your mental wellbeing. Sleeplessness, anxiety and depression are all common after you live through an experience like a burglary, and many individuals develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). You don’t have to suffer alone and expect to just “get over it.” Consider contacting a local mental health professional, therapist, or counselor to talk through your feelings and learn healthy coping mechanisms as you recover. Taking care of yourself is just as important as all the other things that need to be done after a break-in.
As soon as the police have cleared your home to be occupied again, you need to repair any damaged security features and upgrade what you have in general. This should include stronger locks on windows and doors, and you will want to rekey any existing locks in case someone managed to obtain an old copy of your house key.
You will also want to talk to a locksmith about upgrading your locking hardware with a stronger cover plate and a deadbolt on all exterior doors if you don’t have one. They can advise you better about how to make your home significantly more difficult to break into without making noise or setting off a home security system.
Are you looking to repair or upgrade the locks on your home? If you’re local to the greater Dallas area, contact the locksmith experts at Dallas Area Locksmith. We are available 24/7 for emergency lockout services, and we have years of expertise and experience making homes and commercial properties more secure with the latest in lock technology. Contact us today for more information about securing your home or business.
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