Let’s hope you never have to deal with the aftermath of a home break-in. It can be scary to think a stranger was able to get into your home and go through your personal belongings, and its heartbreaking when precious possessions are stolen.
After all, whether you live in an apartment in downtown Windsor, a house in the suburbs or a home in the country outside of Chatham, your home is a sanctuary, where you should be able to relax and feel safe. Unfortunately, statistics show that there is a break-in attempt in the Windsor area every 5 ½ hours, and an attempted robbery every two days.
While we hope you don’t end up being part of those statistics, if you do experience a break-in, this article outlines some critical steps you should take immediately, 24-hours afterward, and in the days following the incident. In addition, we’ll offer some steps to take to improve your home security.
Immediate action required:
Here are some steps to take immediately after you discover a break-in at your property:
Call the police
If there are obvious signs of a break-in (e.g., broken door, lock or hinges, shattered glass, etc.), or your security alarm is sounding, don’t immediately enter the house, since the thief could still be inside. Instead, head to a neighbour’s home or sit in your vehicle, with the doors locked and call the police.
Never confront a burglar! Even if you are at home and hear someone breaking in through the front door, escape through the back door. After all, material things can always be replaced, your family’s safety is much more important.
Always report the crime, no matter how small. Police need information on crime in order to help keep communities safe, and it might also be necessary for your insurance claim.
Try not to disturb the “crime scene”
Sadly, your home is now a crime scene, so you need to leave it untouched before the police conduct their investigation. Depending on the situation, they may check for fingerprints, so you need to avoid opening any cupboards or drawers to check valuables.
Inspect the damage and take inventory
Once the police have completed their inspection and tell you the house is safe, take a walk through your entire home to see what has been stolen or damaged.
- Make a list of what has been stolen or damaged. You’ll need to provide this to both the police and your insurance company (and keep one for your own files). Along with larger items (TV’s, computers, jewelry, etc.), also check to see if credit cards, passports or checkbooks have been stolen.
- Take photos of any damaged property (such as doors, windows, furniture), without disturbing the scene, in case your insurance provider decides to send a claims adjuster to investigate.
Arrange to stay with friends or family for the first night.
You may be feeling very upset and vulnerable, and if you need to leave the crime scene undisturbed, it might be best to try to secure the home as best you can and find somewhere else to stay the first night.
Check-in with your home security monitoring company
If your home is equipped with a professional home security system, you would have received a call from them notifying you that the alarm was triggered and that police had been dispatched.
Once you are back in the home, inspect the system to see if it has been disarmed, and check for any damage (e.g., broken cameras, cut wires, etc.). Connect with your security provider’s call center to discuss any required repairs.
Also check any security camera footage so that you can provide information to the police regarding the location and method of entry and any descriptions of the burglars.
Within 24-hours of your break-in:
Contact your insurance provider
It is important to contact your insurance provider within 24-hours of the incident to report the break-in, regardless of whether you own the home or have renter’s insurance. You’ll need to provide your list of damaged and/or stolen items, along with the police report. In addition, if you have taken photos, you can provide those, along with any video surveillance footage available.
Report any financial or personal identity loss
If any credit cards, checkbooks or personal identification (such as a passport) were stolen, it’s important to immediately notify your bank or credit card company to ensure no transactions can occur on your account. In addition, if you’ve had your passport, social insurance or other personal identification documents stolen, you’ll need to notify the appropriate government office.
In the weeks following the break-in: put your home (and life) back in order
Once the police and insurance investigations and reports are complete, you can finally start to clean up your property and make it feel like home again.
As Bethany Parr, explained in her “Break-in Story” on our blog, the aftermath of a break-in can be very challenging.
It wasn’t until after the police investigation that my mother and I really started to see the extent of the devastation. We went in the house to clean up and saw that these burglars had taken so many precious items AND proceeded to trash the house. The thought that someone else had been riffling through my loved one’s private belongings was heartbreaking.
Cleaning up: Sometimes, it helps to hire a professional company that can help with major cleaning (e.g., removing mud stains from carpets, clearing up broken glass). If there was vandalism, you may also need to hire house painters to clean off and re-paint walls.
Security Repairs: If the intruders kicked-in or simply managed to open your front door lock, it’s time to have a locksmith install new deadbolt. You may also want to consider hiring a handyman to fix doors and windows and install sturdier hinges, strike plates and door jambs.
Talk to your neighbours: You should let your neighbours know about the incident so that they can take proactive measures to improve their home security in case the same robbers continue to target the area. It is also important that communities work together to keep an eye out for one another to prevent crime.
Give yourself and your family time to recover emotionally. There is no doubt that a home robbery is an intense violation of your personal security and privacy. It can be hard to overcome feelings of being vulnerable after a break-in. While most of your stolen or damaged items can be replaced, it may take a long time before you feel safe and secure in your home.
Take steps to improve home security
Assess your home’s vulnerabilities
One of the ways you can start to feel safe again and have peace of mind, is to ensure your home is as secure as possible. To identify where your home may be vulnerable to break-in, consider reviewing JM Security Canada’s “Five easy steps you can take to protect your home against intrusion”.
You might also want to conduct an in-depth assessment of your home security by downloading our free Home Security Assessment e-book that includes a 29-point Home Security Checklist.
Invest in a home security system
The ultimate step in burglar-proofing your home is to install a professional home security system and clearly display signage indicating that your property is monitored. Since most thieves are looking for the path of least resistance, this is an immediate deterrent.
Find out about home security systems
If you are just getting started with a home monitoring system, you might want to read our detailed guide: How do security systems really work?.
Consider a “Smart Home System”
If you’re ready to consider full home automation or Smart Home systems, you can read our Comprehensive Guide to Home Automation – Canadian Edition.
Looking for Home Security in Windsor or Chatham?
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