No one wants to go through the experience of coming home to find their place has been broken into and robbed. Unfortunately, millions of Americans are forced to face this situation every year. According to recent U.S. Department of Justice statistics, approximately 3.7 million household burglaries took place each year between 2003 and 2007.

Most of us are aware that the first thing you should do upon discovering you’ve been robbed is contact the police. Beyond that, the fear and shock caused by your home becoming a crime scene can make it difficult to think clearly about what to do next.

Immediately upon discovering a break-in, law enforcement experts recommend that you leave your home as soon as possible. This is to protect you from possible harm if one or more thieves are still on the premises, as well as keep you from accidentally destroying evidence which can aid investigators.

If possible, you should contact the police from inside your vehicle or a trusted neighbor’s house, and then wait for law enforcement to arrive so you can re-enter your home with them.

Once you are back in your home, here are five things you should do as soon as you can.

1. Take photos and make a list of what’s missing

Once the police say you can, perform a walkthrough of your house and make a list of everything that is missing. You will need this list for the police report, and for one of the other tasks later in this list.

Be as descriptive as possible when you create your list. This task is much easier if you have previously created a personal asset inventory you can refer to while doing your walkthrough. If you don’t have an inventory, try to be as specific as you can with brand names and item descriptions.

If possible, take photos or shoot video of every relevant bit of visual evidence. This includes any damage done to doors or windows, and any areas of your home where objects were taken from.

2. Arrange for emergency repairs to re-secure your home

Depending on how the thieves broke into your house, you may need to arrange to re-secure your residence. If one or more windows were broken to gain access to your home, call an emergency glass service to replace them. If your door was jimmied or broken through, or if you think the robber got a hold of a spare door key, get an emergency locksmith to come replace door locks and cut new keys.

It’s a good idea to ask the police if there are any other measures you should take in the first day or two following a robbery. The officers have seen dozens if not hundreds of burglaries, and can often give you valuable information about re-securing your home.

Keep all of your receipts for any locksmith or glass repair services you get. Many insurance companies will cover these costs as part of your burglary claim.

3. Contact your insurance company

Whether you have homeowner’s insurance or renter’s insurance (sometimes called tenant insurance), you should reach out to your insurance company as soon as you have provided the police with all of the information they need.

Making your home less attractive to potential thieves is worth the cost and effort. Click To Tweet

Your insurance company will need the list of stolen items you created during your initial walkthrough. The company may send a claims adjuster to your home to examine the crime scene and collect any photos or video you were able to capture.

4. Make your house a home again

Once the police and insurance company have all the information they need, it’s time to get your home back in order. Cleaning up and restoring order can help you address the uneasy feelings of anxiety caused by the robbery. Do what you need to do to make yourself comfortable in your home again.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to family and friends to help you during this time. A home robbery is a very personal form of violation, and it can help to have someone you trust assist with the cleanup, or even just be a sympathetic ear while you process the event.

5. Improve your home security

While some people believe that adding security features to their home after an incident takes place is like closing the barn door after the horse runs away, there is never a bad time to beef up your home security. Making your home less attractive to potential thieves is worth the cost and effort.

Here are some popular home security options:

  • Security cameras: there are many reasonably priced home security camera systems on the market. The visible presence of security cameras can deter a burglar from breaking in.
  • Door reinforcing: you can install a reinforcement plate that makes it extremely difficult to force open your main entrance door.
  • Window reinforcing: windows made from reinforced glass or a polycarbonate material are difficult and noisy to break; alternately, you can have window bars installed.
  • Exterior lighting: motion-activated outdoor floodlights that illuminate your house and yard are a strong theft deterrent.
  • Alarm systems: home alarm systems can be connected to a central monitoring service (more expensive), or use a loud siren or other noise to cause a robber to flee (less expensive).

Make sure you let your insurance company know about any home security measures you put in place; adding security features may result in a discount on your homeowner’s insurance premiums.

Choose the best response to a home burglary

Having your home broken into and personal items stolen is a traumatic event. By taking care and paying attention to your actions following a burglary, you will maximize the chances of the police recovering some or all of the stolen goods, and improve the response you receive from your insurance company. You can also work onĀ improving your home security, which greatly reduces the chances of a repeat incident.

Posted by Aaron Axline

Aaron Axline is an author, technology journalist, blogger, and knowledge management expert.