According to the FBI, the number of burglaries committed in the first half of 2017 decreased by 6.1 percent from the same period of 2016 – and by 10.6 percent in metropolitan areas specifically.
But despite the decline, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reports that 3.3 million Americans were victims of household robberies in 2016, the last year for which stats are available. That works out to 24.7 thefts per 1,000 households.
Much has been written about how to protect yourself and your home against break-ins. Whatever precautions you take, if you happen to be victimized, what you do after the fact is just as important – especially for your mental well-being.
Surprisingly, only half of burglary victims notify police that they’ve been robbed. But you should.
You need to call the cops right away, if only because the perpetrator might still be on the premises: BJS reports that 7 percent of all home burglaries involve violence against household members. So consider calling the authorities from your car.
The police should give you a case number, which you’ll need for your next phone call: to file a claim with your insurance company. A police report and investigation will help bolster your insurance claim, so let the police do their jobs. Don’t touch anything, but do take pictures of the damage and places from which things were stolen, to document the losses.
Next, the experts say, vacate the place until it is no longer a crime scene. Check yourself into a hotel and try to chill. Of course, relaxing is easier said than done. If you have trouble calming yourself down, try talking with friends, family members or a clergy member. Don’t be afraid to lean on others for emotional support and comfort.
If your anxiety persists, consider seeing a professional therapist who can help you move along with your life. Maybe you can find a group of other robbery victims who meet with a social worker to talk through their anxieties and fears.
Once everything settles down, return home and immediately change every lock in the house: windows, doors, even the locks on your garage doors. It might be a good idea to have a different lockset and key for each door, but ask your locksmith or a hardware store specialist for advice.
Now, it’s time to consider how to better protect your home, valuables and family from another theft. Once a burglar has successfully broken into a home, they sometimes return for another shot.
The National Crime Prevention Council has an entire suite of hints to help you review your home security and identify any shortcomings: Visit ncpc.org/resources/home-neighborhood-safety. Also, check the websites of the numerous outfits that peddle alarm systems and other security measures. For example, ADT has a five-step home-security guide, while SimpliSafe recommends always setting your alarm system, even when you’re home.
You will probably find that a whole-house security system with cameras and motion-activated flashing lights is an expensive deterrent. But the cost may well be worth it for your peace of mind. And, of course, by installing such a system, you should be able to wrangle a big discount on your homeowner’s insurance – maybe even 20 percent or so.
Finally, let’s all be a little more vigilant: Keep your doors and windows locked at all times, don’t allow package delivery services to leave stuff at your front door, and don’t allow mail and newspapers to pile up if you are away – even just for a day or two.
Keep your curtains and garage doors closed so thieves can’t check out your goodies in advance of their next strike. Keep watches, keys, jewelry and cash out of sight, and store them in hard-to-find places – ideally a safe. If you don’t have one, consider buying one. A safe can protect expensive items like jewelry and guns from theft, while also keeping important paperwork out of a criminal’s hands.
Also, to minimize the chances of your vehicle being used for a quick getaway, find another place for your car keys. Don’t keep them near an exterior doorway.
By the way, even if it was your neighbor’s house that was hit, you should consider the steps outlined here. Otherwise, you could be next.
Lew Sichelman has been covering real estate for more than 50 years. He is a regular contributor to numerous shelter magazines and housing and housing-finance industry publications. Readers can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.