We run through what to do first if someone breaks in to your home and what steps you can take to minimise any distress for you and your family
Crime survey figures for the year ending March 2017 show levels of property crime in England and Wales are continuing to fall since their peak in 1995.
In fact, according to the Crime Survey of England and Wales (CSEW), rates of household burglary are now lower than they were when the survey started in 1981.
It’s good news. But improvements in home security may have contributed to the reduction in crime rates as much as any downward trends in criminal behaviour.
And a recent spike in reports of break-ins shown in crime figures released in July 2017 shows property crime remains a problem.
So, what steps do you need to take straight away if someone breaks in to your home?
And how do you get back on your feet after the distress a burglary can cause?
What to do after a burglary
Discovering you’ve been burgled can be devastating, but the steps you take in the immediate aftermath of a break in will help you recover from the experience much more quickly. And anything which can make it easier for you to move on with normal life in the long term should be seen as a positive thing.
Here’s what to do.
1. Call the police
As soon as you discover your property has been burgled, dial 101. The police will give you a crime reference number which you’ll need for any contents insurance claim you make. For text-phone, the number is 18001 101.
Important: if a burglary is in progress, call 999. Try to stay calm and the police will be with you as soon as possible.
2. Don't touch anything
It’s tempting to start trying to tidy up after someone unwelcome has been in your house, but try hard not to. The police need to see everything first, just as you found it.
It’s a good idea to take some photos of the damage and the places where things have gone missing to show your insurer.
Once the police have visited the crime scene and recorded any evidence they need, you can start putting things away.
3. Cancel any stolen cards
If you believe any bank, credit cards or cheque books have been stolen, call your bank or credit card company straight away.
You should also call your finance providers if you’ve lost phones, tablets or laptops that had bank account details and logins on them.
4. Call your mobile phone provider
If your mobile phone has been stolen, get your phone provider to put a stop on your account immediately. Consider any important passwords you may have stored on your phone and change these as soon as possible.
5. Make a note of any keys that are missing
Including car keys and window keys. Burglars sometimes come back to a property about six months after a crime specifically to steal the brand-new replacement products you’ve received through your insurance. You may need to change your locks.
6. Make an inventory
Collect any evidence you have about the items that have been taken from your property, such as receipts, photographs or valuations. It will help any insurance claim if you can provide an estimate of things stolen or damaged. Don’t dispose of anything that might be needed for inspection by your insurer.
According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the most common items stolen in domestic burglaries are purses, wallets, money and cards. This is followed by computer equipment, then jewellery, watches and other electrical items, such as cameras.
From outbuildings, sheds and domestic workshops, tools and work materials are most often taken.
7. Contact your insurer
Call their claims department to report the crime, preferably with your insurance and crime reference numbers to hand. The Admiral claims number is 0333 220 2035.
Your insurer can advise you about changing locks, making your car safe if your car keys are missing (but your car hasn’t been stolen), and repairing any damage caused by forced entry into your property. They may be able to help you with immediate costs and security arrangements too, depending on your policy.
8. Consider your home security
Think about ways you could make your home more secure, from putting Neighbourhood Watch stickers in your window, to installing a burglar alarm.
Take care of you
Having your home burgled is a horrible experience. Even if you’re fortunate in that not much is taken, knowing a stranger has been in your home going through your things is a horrible feeling.
If you live alone it can be especially hard. Having friends and neighbours round in the first days after a burglary is a good idea. Coming to terms with what a stranger has done with your personal possessions can be a harrowing experience and sometimes takes longer than you might expect.
Children too can find the loss of a sense of security very difficult to adjust to. You could ask a friend or a member of your family to take your kids out or look after them while you tidy their things.
Remember any feelings you have of upset, anger, anxiety and depression are completely normal.
According to the ONS Focus on Property Crime report 2016, although ‘property crime does not generally result in physical injury to the victim... the emotional impact can still be considerable for victims.’
Approximately 80% of victims report being emotionally affected by burglary, with 43% reporting anger and annoyance, 37% suffering from shock, and a third (31%) experiencing fear. Anxiety, panic attacks and difficulty sleeping are also widely reported.
Above all, try not to blame yourself – you are not the criminal.
You can call the charity Victim Support at any time to get help with how you’re feeling and for practical advice. Their free support line is 08 08 16 89 111.