Whether we like it or not, disaster can strike, but some of the worst disasters are man-made, not naturally induced. A home invasion and burglary is a traumatic event in the life of any homeowner, but few know how to process the events or proceed with recovery. In times of dire need, a little knowledge will go a long way in capturing the criminal, recovering your losses, reinforcing your security, and soothing rattled minds.
Here are the steps you need to take after a break-in:
The first step is the most crucial. Coming home to a burglary can be a traumatizing event, but maintaining a cool head until the necessary steps are taken is essential to recovery and, potentially, capture of the perpetrator. As soon as you discover what has occurred, call the police. Criminals leave behind evidence in their wake and can only vacate the premises so quickly and get so far. Notify local law enforcement authorities and inform them that you’d like to file a report so that they can guide you in the right direction.
Remember everything you can about the scenario and write it down as quickly as possible. Human memory is subject to suggestion and deterioration, particularly in stressful circumstances, so recording memories while they are fresh is important. If you see the criminal, remember their age, sex, race, clothing, and where they went when they left the house.
Pay attention to their point of entry, what was stolen, and if there was more than one of them. Most importantly, however, do not touch anything. Any rearranging or disturbing of the crime scene can compromise important evidence and make tracking down the individual more difficult.
Once you’ve assessed the damage, it is time to begin recovering from the damage. This begins with a single phone call, made immediately after filing a police report, to your insurance company.
The order of these phone calls is important, as the insurance company will need the police report number in order to move forward. The police report will help serve as an official record for your insurance and determine the value of items stolen, and whether you qualify for emergency funding to repair doors, locks, and other elements essential to security.
Since the greatest weapon against burglary is prevention, it’s now time to assess what went wrong and help prevent further intrusion in the future. In general, burglars take advantage of a handful of vulnerabilities in order to determine a target: knowledge of home contents, darkness, cover from foliage, faulty locks, accessible unlocked windows, and knowledge of your schedule.
We won’t cover each element in-depth here, but it’s valuable to know that each of these items facilitates entry into your home. Assess the damage in your situation and determine what caused the breach. Did a lock break? Were your neighbors unable to see them because of lighting or cover from plants? Did they climb through your window or simply open a door carelessly left unlocked? Ask yourself these questions in order to gain an understanding of how to remedy the vulnerability in the future.
When your overwhelming instinct is to be strong and stalwart for your family, this step can go sadly overlooked. The fact is that burglaries are a traumatic event, and processing the compromised peace of mind of your home is a burden that few psyches can easily bear.
The first thing to remember about emotional recovery is that it takes time. No two individuals are alike, and healing means taking the time to allow yourself to feel better. Work with your family and don’t rush yourself; your long-term mental health is far more important than the temporary machismo of appearing tough in a rough situation.
Finally, if your recovery is affecting your day-to-day life, or you simply want some support in a hard time, seek professional help. Counselors and therapists exist to help you process difficult events, and enlisting their help is not just beneficial, it’s smart.
A burglary is no small matter, and knowing how to react when the worst comes to pass is vital to putting your family back on track. Call the police immediately and report any and all information that might track down the perpetrator. Call your insurance company immediately after and begin damage assessment and recovery. Assess your security infrastructure and patch the holes that lead to the intrusion in the first place. Finally, emotionally process what has occurred and give yourself the time to feel better. Through time, support, and the help of professionals, your house can become a home once more.