What To Do if Your Home Is Broken Into
Having your home broken into is a legal and emotional violation.
In 2019, the FBI estimated that there were over 1 million home burglaries, with an average loss per burglary of over $2,660. However, recovering your money is only part of the process of recovering from a home burglary. Here, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of the steps you should take to handle this burglary and prevent more in the future.
What To Do if Your Home Is Broken Into
First of all, don’t panic. Although you may feel out of control, safety is just around the corner.
1. Leave Your Home and Find a Safe Place.
Right after you’ve discovered a home burglary, leave your home and find a safe place to be, like a library or a neighbor’s house. The burglar may still be in your home, so it’s best to flee the scene.
2. Call the Police.
Call 911 and report the crime.
3. Don’t Touch Anything.
Before the police arrive, though, make sure not to touch or move anything, even if it’s broken. Right now, your home has all the evidence, and moving anything could compromise a criminal investigation.
4. File a Report.
Once you’re back in your home, figure out what items were broken or stolen. Take pictures, document everything, and view any security camera footage, if available. The police officers can use all of this information to investigate the crime.
TIP: Be sure to check your medicine cabinets for missing prescriptions, a common item stolen during home burglaries.
5. Call Your Insurance Company.
File a claim with your renters or homeowners insurance company. If you own your home, make sure you have your proof-of-ownership documents handy, along with all the evidence you’ve collected.
6. Call Your Bank.
Often in home burglaries, the burglar will steal credit cards or personally identifiable information from important documents. To make sure your identity hasn’t been stolen, contact your bank and verify that your financial records are safe. For more security, change your passwords and PINs. Next, invest in an identity theft protection service to protect yourself in the future.
7. Contact Credit-Reporting Bureaus.
In the same vein, make sure that your credit hasn’t been compromised. You can either contact each major credit bureau directly using the below information or sign up for credit reporting. We recommend placing a security alert on your account to prevent unauthorized use of your credit report.
8. Clean up Signs of Break-In.
Restoring your home, from broken doors and windows to missing or damaged property, will give you and your family more peace of mind and a sense of normalcy.
9. Secure Your Home.
Now, it’s time to prevent (or at least decrease the likelihood) of future break-ins. We recommend using the following:
- Home alarm systems: Home security systems are your best defense against home burglaries. If you’re wondering whether you need a home security system, the answer is most likely yes, unless you live in an apartment building with door attendants and/or surveillance cameras. For most homeowners, installing motion-activated security sensors on doors and windows is a great way to prevent burglaries. Find out if you need a permit for your security system before researching the cost of security systems. You may actually be able to save money if you have a home office; see if your home security system is tax deductible.
- Security cameras: Security cameras give the police more evidence that a crime has taken place. Additionally, security cameras deter crime, as most burglars choose a different home if they notice video surveillance. To get started, learn about the cost of security cameras and then how to install security cameras.
- Video doorbells: Video doorbells are a type of outdoor security camera that lets you know if someone is at your door. They are a great way to prevent package theft, along with other types of home burglaries.
- Safes: Place any important or expensive items that you have, such as jewelry, in a safe, ideally hidden somewhere in your home.
- Smart locks: Smart locks let you know whenever someone has entered your home; you’ll also be able to lock and unlock your door remotely.
- Smart lights: Smart lights can make it seem like you’re home when you’re not, with schedules and away modes. The best part is that smart lights don’t cost much, and if you don’t feel like replacing all your bulbs, you can use a smart light switch instead.
- Passwords: Physical theft can lead to digital theft if your computers and mobile devices aren’t protected properly by secure passwords. Read our password security tips to learn how to protect your devices.
10. Take Care.
Burglary affects more than your property; it can also affect you emotionally, along with your family and pets. Take the steps you need to recover emotionally from your burglary, as well as physically and financially. That may involve speaking to a therapist or just having a family meeting to get your feelings out.
11. Alert Your Neighbors.
Want to be a good neighbor? Let them know of your burglary. Your neighbors should know about your burglary, as burglars tend to rob multiple homes within the same neighborhood. You can either call your neighbors on the phone, reach out on social media, or use an app like Nextdoor for your communication.
How Do Burglars Choose Houses?
Some homes are more at risk of burglary than others. In a study from the University of North Carolina’s Department of Criminal Justice & Criminology, over 400 convicted burglars explained how they choose which houses to rob. First, they decided which houses not to rob based on deterrents such as these:
- The proximity of neighbors and police
- Whether someone is home
- Indicators of security systems, like signage and surveillance cameras
In fact, 60 percent of burglars said that if they found an alarm, they would choose another home. If they found an alarm during the burglary, half would discontinue the attempt,1 proving that home security systems can prevent burglaries from happening in the first place.
Do Burglars Target the Same House?
The UNC study also found more troubling information: If you’ve been burgled before, it’s more likely that you’ll be burgled again. Many burglars rob the same houses multiple times, especially if they’re in low-traffic areas without any visible surveillance equipment. That’s one of the reasons it’s important to take preventative security measures to let burglars know what they’re up against.
NOTE: Security systems with 24/7 professional monitoring provide the best coverage for homes, especially if the resident is away frequently.
Home Burglary Statistics
These are the most recent (2019) FBI findings on burglaries:
- There were an estimated 1,117,6969 burglaries in 2019.
- The estimated number of burglaries decreased by nearly 10 percent from 2018 to 2019.
- The average dollar loss per burglary incident was $2,661.
- 56 percent of burglaries involved forcible entry, while 38 percent involved unlawful entries. Only 7 percent of burglars attempted forcible entries unsuccessfully, meaning that most forcible entries were successful.2
In our own research on package theft, a common form of home burglary, we found that 4 in 10 people have had a package stolen. Also, package theft increases during Prime Day and other sales holidays as e-commerce rises.
Although you may have been a victim of home burglary in the past, you can take certain steps to reduce the likelihood of being a victim in the future. Aside from locking your doors and windows, installing a home security system with cameras is your best bet. Learn more about what a home security system is and more home security tips on how to protect your home from invasion.
Thankfully, home burglaries are becoming less and less common. However, we still get a ton of questions about them, which we’ve answered below.
What do you do if your house gets broken into?
Follow these steps if your home gets broken into:
- Leave your home and go to a safe place.
- Once you return, don’t touch anything.
- Call the police and file a report.
- Take an inventory of stolen and damaged items.
- View video surveillance footage, if available.
- Take pictures.
- Document everything.
- Hand over all evidence to the police.
- Follow up with the police.
- File a claim with your home insurance company.
- Call your bank to ensure that your financial records are safe.
- Change your bank PINs.
- Contact the three major credit-reporting agencies and ask them to place security alerts on your credit reports.
- Clean up signs of the break-in and replace missing items.
- Secure your home with security systems, cameras, etc.
- Care for yourself, your family, and your pets.
- Alert your neighbors of the break-in.
Do burglars return to the same house?
Unfortunately, yes, burglars often return to the same house multiple times, according to a study from the University of North Carolina.
Should I call the police if someone tried to break into my house?
Yes, you should call the police if someone tried to break into your house. Hand over any video or photo evidence you have of the attempted break-in to assist with the investigation.
How do burglars enter homes?
Most burglars enter homes through main entry points like side and front doors and windows on the first floor, according to a study from the University of North Carolina.
What is the first rule of fire safety?
The first rule of fire safety is to get out, stay out, and call for help.
ResearchGate. (2012). Understanding Decisions to Burglarize from the Offender's Perspective.
Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2021). Burglary.