A home invasion is not something any homeowner wants to consider, but is something that everyone should plan for. While property crime rates are generally down, an estimated 1.7 million burglaries take place every year in the United States, Safe Wise reports. Here are three steps to take if you come home to evidence of break-in and three things you can do to prevent a burglary from happening.
Steps After a Break-in
1. Call the police
If you come home to signs of a break-in — a broken lock, an open window, valuables missing, etc. — the first thing you should do is call the police. If the robbery is still in process, vacate the premises immediately and then call 911. Even if you are sure the intruder is no longer inside, call your local nonemergency number from a nearby safe location to preserve the crime scene, esurance suggests. Many people worry that involving the police is a futile effort (up to 50 percent of home burglaries are not reported), and in their dismayed state after a break-in may decide to forego reporting the incident. However, filing a police report will give you a chance at recovering items and catching the criminal, make the insurance claim process smoother and put your neighborhood on alert. Once the police arrive, tour the home with them and take pictures of damage. Make a list of any stolen items, providing pictures and serial numbers of electronics, if you have them.
2. Call your insurance company
The insurance company will require a police report, and depending on the value of items stolen, may also send a claims adjuster to investigate.
3. Address the emotional damage
A home invasion is a violation that would leave anyone feeling scared and vulnerable. Don’t overlook the need to address the emotional toll a break-in can take on you and your family members. Talk to people about what happened, and seek professional help if you find other parts of your life are affected by the break-in. Repair the physical damage to your home and take measures to protect yourself and your home from future invasions.
How to Prevent a Future Break-In
1. Install a security system
This is the No. 1 measure you can take to prevent a break-in other then having an armed security guard. A study from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte found that 60 percent of burglars would not attempt to break-in to a home that was protected by a security system. Install a system that includes indoor and outdoor motion-activated cameras that will alert you to intruder presence. After installation, advertise the system’s presence with yard signs and stickers at every entrance to the home.
2. Form or join a neighborhood watch group
Talk to your neighbors about forming a neighborhood watch group that patrols during the day. Most burglaries take place when people are at work and school, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., so ask neighbors who are home during those hours to keep an eye out for each other.
3. Create a home security routine
Thirty percent of intruders enter through unlocked entry points, Safe Wise says. Make locking all doors and windows, even when home, a habit for your family. Before anyone leaves the home, even just to walk down the block or play outside, remind one another to lock everything up.