What to do after a Home Burglary – Locksmith Recommended
Even with the best home security setup, your home can still be robbed. Door locks and alarms are meant to deter burglars and encourage them to look at other houses instead of yours. Most often that’s enough to protect your home, but sometimes it is not.
Being a victim of a home invasion is very disruptive and emotionally draining. The emotional trauma caused can be long-lasting and the financial impact of having to replace or make do substantial. Amidst this panic and feeling of vulnerability, the steps you take have a significant bearing on the chances of the burglars getting apprehended and facing justice.
It is important not to react in a way that destroys any evidence left by the burglars and in so doing, eliminate any chances of them getting caught.
And it is important to evaluate your home’s security to prevent future home break-ins.
Jump to Protecting Your Home From Future Break-Ins:
Improve Your Home’s Security
What to do If There is NO Evidence of How they Broke-In
What to do if They Broke In Through the Door
What to do if They Lifted Your Sliding Glass Door Out
General Tips to Prevent a Home Burglary
What to do After a Burglary – Immediate Steps
1. Don’t Touch Anything
The first and very crucial step you should take when your home has been burglarized is to alert the police immediately. Calling the police at the earliest opportunity increases the chances of the burglars getting caught.
Avoid touching or rearranging anything else as that might interfere with the scene. Touching or wiping furniture as you seek to reorganize your home following an invasion may compromise evidence left by the burglars that could help identify the culprits. So wait until the police have left before attempting to clean up the mess.
2. Take Inventory of What was Stolen
It’s important to make a list of the stolen items, not only for the purpose of insurance claims but also to help police track them down if they can. It’s better if you still have the receipts but who saves receipts?
You can download your credit card statements or bank statements for purchases. Most banks will keep your online records for 12 months and you can call to get more. You can go through your online accounts (such as at Amazon and Ebay) and look through all of your purchases. These things will both remind you of what you’ve purchased that may be missing and provide a cost for the insurance company.
Another way to remind yourself of what you had that may have been stolen, and to provide insurance companies prove of ownership, is to look through old photos of your home.
3. Call Your Insurance
You need to file your insurance claims as soon as you can. For this, you need a police report of the incident and a list of the stolen valuables. Some insurance companies need proof of ownership such as receipts and online transactions for the lost valuables. Again, photos or video of your home are very helpful. Others may send an adjuster to assess the extent of the damage and evaluate the worth of the stolen goods before they can send any compensation.
4. Protect yourself online
Smart burglars these days break into houses not to steal physical items but to go after the more important personal and banking details. Did you have mail on the counter or easily accessible during the robbery? Was your laptop or PC stolen? Call your bank and credit card companies to get new cards and change account numbers. If your laptop was stolen during the home robbery or you do not use a password protected computer (even if not stolen), change the passwords for your online accounts. Assuming they got this information even if they didn’t is the best approach to ensure you protect your account information.
Analyse the Break-In
After a home invasion, it is essential that you have a look at your home security.
How did they get in? Can you tell how they broke into your home or is there no evidence of how the got in? You need to identify the weaknesses in your door lock security that the intruders exploited to get in. Look at the points where your home security was breached. Things like how secure your locks are and if someone’s discovered where you hide your spare need to be considered.
Burglars have an easy job when your locks can be easily picked or bumped by amateurs or if you leave your spare keys under the doormat or a pot next to the front door. The cost of paying a local locksmith to provide a security assessment and review your home security will pay off in the long run as they will be able to give advice based on what they have seen in their line of work in your area.
See How to Improve Your Home’s Security below.
How to Recover from the Emotional Aftermath of a Burglary
When a girl I was dating many years ago had her home broke into, they only managed to take a few CDs, but it took her several months to feel save in her home again.
A break-in is a very traumatic experience. It is painful to lose something you have worked hard to acquire and sometimes the victims end up self-blaming. You may also feel unsafe.
The first emotional reaction is usually shock and disbelief. You find it difficult to wrap your mind around the occurrence.
Then you will move on to denial. This does not mean that you refuse to accept that a burglary has taken place, but you refuse to acknowledge that it is emotionally impacting you. The sooner you deal with it and address it the better.
The other reaction after your home is broken into is fear. After the burglars leave, it sets in that your home is no longer safe and can be invaded anytime. You start feeling insecure and anxious whenever you notice unusual movements. It is the worst feeling to have.
Here are ways to help move on from the emotional trauma.
- Find a shoulder to lean on
Having people around you to give you support- financially and emotionally – will be a great help. When you have a shoulder to lean on, it makes it easier to recover. You can rely on family, friends and neighbors for support. If the trauma is too much, do not shy away from seeking the help of a professional therapist. Do not be afraid to admit that you are vulnerable.
- Allow yourself to feel the pain
I know this sounds trite and fluffy, but if you don’t allow yourself to feel the pain, then you won’t be able to heal from it. Accepting that the incident is causing you emotional pain is the first step to moving on. Don’t let people make you feel bad for being upset. Comments such as “it’s good you were not home at the time” or “at least they didn’t take your TV” are meant to be comforting, but they can actually guilt-trip from feeling the pain that you should be feeling.
- Keep fear at bay
It is okay to feel fearful after a burglary at your home. It is okay to feel like it could happen again, it has happened once after all. But do not let the fear be your driver. Take these steps to Improve Your Home’s Security.
- Get back to your routine as soon as possible
Try to pick yourself up from the incident as soon as you can. Process your loss, but don’t let it hold you back. Resume your routine as soon as you can, and you will heal faster emotionally than you expect. Resuming your routine helps keep the mind distracted from the unfortunate incident.
- Be proactive
Being proactive and taking initiative about improving security around your home can help you recover emotionally too. Follow our steps above to ensuring your home is protected. Make these improvements as soon as possible so that you don’t always have reminders about the burglary.
- Look out for your family
People process theft differently. It is important to move on as a family. Watch out for everyone else, especially the children. Talk openly about the incident and let them know that there’s nothing wrong with being upset and fearful about the incident.
Do not push them into talking about the incident if they don’t want to. Let them recover at their own pace, but offer a shoulder to lean on. The children look up to you for strength.
Improve Your Home Security After a Break-In
If You Can’t Tell How They Got In
If there is no evidence of how the burglar got into your home, they may have done so by: getting in through a unlocked door or window, lock picking, lock bumping, through the garage emergency release, by bypassing improperly install locks, or they may even have a working key. Here is what you can do to stop them next time.
- Automatically lock your doors
Seems obvious but 30% of home break-ins are through an unlocked door or window. You can buy an electronic deadbolt for your entry doors that will automatically relock if it is left open after a set delay time. It’s what I have on my house, and it’s a great feature. Check out our article and recommendations for electronic deadbolts.
- Change the locks
By “change” we mean to have them rekeyed so that they work from a new key and all previous working keys no longer work the lock. You do not have to replace the existing door locks to do this. Your local locksmith will be able to rekey your locks the same day.
- Stop lock bumping
Anybody can order a key online for just three dollars that will open a house lock that has not been bump-protected. Check out our overview article and video What is Lock Bumping and How to Stop It. These steps are equally effective at stopping lock picking.
This is my favorite product to stop lock bumping and stop lock picking.
- Be sure your entry door locks are installed correctly
If your entry door deadbolt and lever are not installed correctly, a credit card or piece of plastic is all that is necessary to bypass them quickly. For more information, and to make sure your entry knob or lever are installed correctly, look at this our Pro Tip on Latch Alignment. Your local locksmith can help make sure your locks are installed correctly.
For deadbolt, you need to make sure the the deadbolt bolt is fully extracted when the door is closed and the deadbolt is locked. You should feel it click or snap into place. If the bolt does not extend all the way, it will not lock in place and can be easily slid back.
They Smashed in a Door
If your entry door was smashed or kicked down you need to make sure that you are reinforcing all of your exterior doors to make a forced home invasion as hard as possible.
We’ve written a comprehensive article and how-to video to help you easily and affordably learn How to Reinforce Entry Doors.
They Broke in by Lifting Off the Sliding Glass Door
Old sliding glass doors can simply be lifted out of their tracks with a screw driver. No manufactures locks made for them prevent this and throwing a wooden dowel down in the track doesn’t prevent it either. But this Sliding Glass Door Lock does. It is easily installed but if you are more comfortable, give your local locksmith a call and they will help you out.
General Home Security Tips to Prevent Home Break-In
1. Traveling: Don’t Advertise It
Don’t post pictures of your planned holiday vacation and the sandy beaches of Spain online. It’s advertising to would be criminals that you are not going to be at home so they can come invade your house. Wait until you are back from vacation and then talk about the photos in the past tense.
Have a friend or family member you trust pick up any newspapers and mail while you are away. A full mail-box or scattered newspapers tells people you are not home.
2.Clear the Line of Site
Make sure that all of the windows and doors in the front of your home are clearly visible from the street by trimming bushes and shrubs. Pull them out if you have to.
3. Invest in a Security System
You can buy a home security system for less than $200 that does not require monthly monitoring fees. In addition to sounding an alarm, these security systems will alert your phone if they are breached and you can quickly access a live video feed to see what is happening in your house so you can decide on the best course of action.
These complete home security systems are easy to setup, have door and motion sensors to detect any intruders. Click here for a video and article that discusses these Home Security Systems.
4. Always be on the lookout
Burglary incidents occur at any time of the day. In fact, daytime break-ins are more common than nighttime home robberies. You should continually test the security features of your home for functionality. Sometimes, alarm systems and security cameras malfunction and fail. Door locks can go out of alignment making them ineffective with the changes in weather.