Dear Lifehacker, A friend of mine recently had his house robbed, and it got me thinking: What should I do if I get robbed? Who should I call first, and how should I go about getting made whole again? Sincerely, Home Invaded
Getting robbed is a horrifying experience. It’s psychologically unsettling to see your safe sanctuary violated, and it’s in that moment that you suddenly have a lot to do that will require you to be level-headed and together. Fortunately, knowing what to do ahead of time can help make it easier if you ever find yourself in that situation.
Call the Police and Take Pictures, But Don’t Touch Anything
The very first thing you should do immediately after realising you’ve been robbed is to call the police. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to get your stuff back. If the person who broke into your home or vehicle is still nearby, police will have a higher chance of catching them right after it happens than if you wait a day to report it.
Once you’ve discovered that your home or car has been broken into, you’ll want to gather all the information you can. If you saw the person (either in person or on a security system), try to remember any information about them including, but not limited to:
- Where they went
Some people are better at memorising this type of information than others, but fortunately observation and memory retention are things you can practice even if you aren’t currently being burgled. In addition to remembering info about your attacker, also be aware of your surroundings. How did they enter? What did they take? How did they leave? Were they on foot or in a car? Was there only one person? Several? Any and all information you can provide to law enforcement officers will help.
Finally, regardless of how good your memory is, take pictures. Both before and after a crime. If something is missing from your home, a photograph of your big-screen TV will help prove that it was stolen, not “stolen”. Additionally, any evidence you can provide to the police and insurance companies can help you with your claims. Don’t disturb anything in order to take photos, of course. Wait until the police arrive to move anything, but try provide evidence as close to the conditions you found your home or car in as possible.
The only thing you should never try to take pictures of is your attacker. If you’re face-to-face with the person who is trying to steal from you, let them go. Sure, a photo might make it easier to identify them, but it’s not worth your life. Always cooperate with the thief. There’s time to deal with your property later.
File Reports and Insurance Claims Immediately
As we stated earlier, the first thing you need to do is contact the police and file a report. Depending on how you go about this, you have a few options. If the police come to your home, you can have the officer walk you through your reporting options, which may include going down to the station.
Once you have your police report, take it to your insurance company. (If you don’t already have home and contents insurance, get it now). They will need all the information the police have to begin work on your claim. Follow the steps that an insurance company account manager took when his home was broken into:
It’s crucial to call the police first and your insurance company second, one right after the other. The claims representative required the report number that the police offer had provided me. He asked where the point of entry was for the burglar, so I told him the burglar busted down my back door. He asked if I needed emergency repairs, and I told him I did.
After that, he asked what was stolen and requested an initial itemised list. Even though I couldn’t provide an exact list, this was helpful for setting up my file. He also asked for the same details I had provided the police officer. After this was completed, the representative let me know he would be sending a claims adjuster to my home to investigate the insurance claim in person.
Later on, you’ll probably have an adjuster come out to take a look at your home. At this point, you should be prepared to explain your income situation and provide as much proof as possible of anything you own that was stolen. If you have any receipts or titles from big-ticket items, have them available when they get to your home.
Audit and Repair Your Security
Your personal property has been invaded. This is a very emotional time (and we’ll get to that), but you also want to ensure that you aren’t hit again. The first step is to identify the point of entry and close the hole immediately. Were your doors unlocked? Start locking them. Window broken? Either get it replaced soon or board it up so no one can get in a second time.
Once you’ve fixed the way that the person got in, check any other potential weaknesses. Most burglars will come through the front door, a first-floor window and the back door. Check to ensure these places are all locked and secured. If you’re still worried someone might break in again, reinforce the weakness with security cameras. You can also make a very simple security system with just a webcam (and hide your valuables).
Finally, let your neighbours know. Whether the robber will attempt to break in to your home again or move on to theirs, the more eyes looking out for the perpetrator, the better. Not only could this help catch the thief if the police haven’t already, but most thieves will pursue the easiest targets. A neighbourhood with watchful residents who frequently check out each others homes is more difficult to steal from than a lethargic neighbourhood.
Give Yourself Time to Handle the Emotions (And Don’t Be a Hero)
Once you’ve talked to the police, filed your insurance claims and secured your home, it’s time to rest. Your sense of security has been compromised, and it’s OK to feel a little messed up for a while. While not all employers will be willing or able to give you time off, ask your manager if you can take a personal day to get everything sorted and to de-stress.
Don’t use that time to be a hero though. Some people may be tempted to try to solve the crime themselves. For years we’ve been exposed to shows like CSI, NCIS, The Wire, Bones, Dexter, Sherlock, Castle, Law and Order and countless others. It would be a lie to say that many of us don’t find the thought of solving a crime at least a little exciting.
However, if you come up with any new information regarding a crime committed against you, take it to the police. If you try to approach the criminal or get your stuff back on your own, you could complicate the case against your attacker, delay your insurance claim, or potentially find yourself on the wrong end of your own criminal charges. As tempting as it may be to crack the case yourself, leave it to the professionals.