Has Your Home Been Robbed or Vandalized? Here's What to Do First
It may be traumatizing to come home to a burglarized or vandalized home, but knowing how to respond helps ensure you stay safe, can file a proper claim, and improve your home security.
It only takes burglars a few minutes to break into most homes. They scout your house for an empty driveway, and they love darkness and obscure spots to enter without detection. Anything quick and worthwhile is fair game—cash, jewelry, electronics, firearms. And while they're at it, they may also destroy your property. Naturally, all this leaves you feeling vulnerable and unsafe. They invaded your sanctuary, and you aren't sure what to do.
If you have been robbed or vandalized, follow these steps to put your home in order and protect yourself in the future.
Call the Police
Don’t go into your home. If you see a broken door or window, step out into the street, use your cell phone, and call the police immediately. Alternatively, go to a neighbor's home and use their telephone. The culprits could still be inside, and if they are, the police have a good chance of catching them red-handed.
Don’t Be a Hero
If people come out of your house, don’t confront them. They may be armed and probably very agitated. If you see them clearly, take note of how many are in the group, their gender, approximate age, race, and the direction they take.
Do not pursue them to get a license plate number if they leave in a vehicle. If they see you, they could pursue you and harm you. Write down what you saw and provide this information to the police when they arrive. If you have a security camera, show the footage to the police.
Don’t Touch Anything
Don’t disturb the crime scene. The police need to see your home the way the robbers or vandals left it. Let them do what they need to do first. The police will tell you when it is safe to enter your home.
Now is the time to gather as much information as you can without touching anything, including items missing or damaged in your home and access points affected in your house. Taking photographs is the best method of recording the damage or theft for insurance purposes. Take pictures of the means of entrance the culprits used, such as a jimmied door or broken window, as well as any malicious damage to the building or your possessions. If thieves took an item, such as a television, photograph the empty space were the unit previously sat.
If you have a household inventory, this is very advantageous because you can walk through your home to see what is missing or damaged. Otherwise, photos and receipts are your best bet at this moment. You will need to prepare a detailed list for your insurance claim later (see Do I Need Proof of Purchase for Stolen Items to File a Burglary Insurance Claim to learn more).
The police may complete a report on the spot. Sometimes, they may direct you to the local police station or a website to file a report online, especially if they believe the claim is likely for a relatively small sum (usually under $5,000). When you get the report, you will the need the file number as proof of loss for your insurance claim.
Find Your Insurance Policy
Pull out your tenant or homeowner’s policy and review it. You want to understand what your policy covers before you call the insurance company. Some policies provide for the actual cash value of goods, which means a reimbursement amounting to the original cost, minus depreciation. Others cover replacement cost, which provides a sum equivalent to the price of new items similar to the items damaged or stolen.
File a Claim With Your Insurance Company
Now that you are familiar with your policy, call the insurance company and let them know what happened. Give them the file number of the police report and discuss your coverage and what must be done to set things right. They will start a claim and give you a claim number.
Some insurers ask for a preliminary list of stolen or damaged items. If the criminals damaged your door or window, they may dispatch a contractor immediately to estimate these damages. They may also send out an insurance adjuster to examine your home to access the other damage.
Prepare Your Inventory
If you do not already have an inventory, you will need to prepare a detailed list of what the criminals took or damaged. Include the brand and age of each item so the insurance company can better evaluate their worth, and you will likely need to do some homework to determine replacement costs. Also be sure to provide them with any photographs, appraisals of jewelry or art, and any receipts or credit card statements you have that prove their worth at this time.
Good insurance companies will keep their customers informed throughout the claims process and work quickly.
Secure Your Home
Once the claims adjuster authorizes repairs, contractors will repair covered damage to your home. Once your property is in good repair, it is a good time to consider whether you have areas that need further protection. You may want to consider an alarm system, security bars or cameras, lights or other protective features.
Tell Your Neighbors
If your neighbors haven’t already come by to see what all the fuss is about, let them know about the robbery or vandalism. Professional thieves often target entire neighborhoods, and it could save others from suffering the same fate. It also put others on alert, and they are more likely to be on the lookout for suspicious behavior in the neighborhood.
Hopefully, you never have to go through a robbery or vandalism. But if you do, following these simple steps will help you restore the security of your home and protect yourself against further problems.