What to do in the 24 hours after a break-in

If you’re unlucky enough to experience a home break-in, it can be a terrifying experience – and leave you feeling vulnerable and violated. However, it’s important to act immediately following the event, notifying police and taking steps to secure your property.

Read on for our advice, essential numbers to call and your home security to-do list.

First things first – is everyone okay?

If you discover there’s been an intruder while you were home, the first thing to do is to ensure that everyone is okay. However, if you’ve returned home and suspect your home was burgled while you were out, resist the urge to go in and check on your belongings. The intruder may still be inside and it’s just not worth the risk – always call 000 if you feel threatened.

Also, your home may now be a crime scene so you shouldn’t touch or move anything until the police have investigated and told you it’s okay to return. Instead, go to a safe place – such as a neighbour’s home – and call the police.

Contacting the police

To report the break-in, ring the Police Assistance Line (131 444), a national 24/7 hotline.

Once your report has been taken over the phone, your local police have immediate access to your file. The sooner you lodge a report, the more chance the police have of catching the culprit, so try to call within the hour after discovering the break-in. The representative you talk to on the Police Assistance Line will give you a COPS event number as a receipt for your crime report. You may need to quote the number if you make a claim under your home and contents insurance.

What happens when the police arrive?

After reporting the break-in, uniformed officers will usually arrive shortly after at your home. They’re likely to ask you for:

  • Your personal details.
  • Details of the crime / what has occurred.
  • Whether or not you could identify the intruder and a description (if you can give one).
  • Any other information you can supply to help them find the culprit.

In NSW, the police will also give you a Victims Card, which includes details of the officer on your case and how to contact them. It will also have the Victims Access Line (VAL) number, which provides support and information to victims of crime. You’ll be contacted by VAL within seven days and they’ll explain how the matter is being dealt with. If police decide to investigate the break-in, they’ll update you every 28 days until the case is closed.

Property damage and missing items

When you’re allowed to go back into your home, make two lists – one for the police and one for your insurer. Write down everything that’s missing and be descriptive, including brand names and serial numbers (if you can find them on appliance documentation). You should also take photos of places where stolen items would normally be.

You should also take photos of damage to your home – say, if a door has been forced open or a window smashed. All of this visual evidence may be required by your insurer.

Your home security to-do list

Once you’ve notified police of the missing items, you need to get onto the task of securing your home. You should:

  • Organise emergency/essential repairs ASAP. Once you’ve assessed the damage, ring emergency tradespeople to come and fix broken windows, doors or locks to prevent further loss or damage.
  • Reset passwords. If laptops, phones or other devices have been stolen, reset passwords immediately to your banking apps, email and other sensitive websites.
  • Cancel credit cards. If an intruder has your handbag or wallet, make it a priority to contact your bank and let them know of the break-in and to cancel your cards (and order new ones).

Contact your insurance provider

Ring your insurance company within 24 hours (if possible) of the break-in (and after submitting the report to the police) to start the process of making a claim. You’ll need to give them the list of missing items and info about damage to your home.

Your insurer may require proof of ownership of your belongings, so you may need receipts, serial numbers of items like TVs, laptops, cameras, valuation certificates of any jewellery, antiques or collectibles, and possibly even photographic evidence of the items in your home prior to the robbery.

The insurer may also send a claims assessor to your home to examine the crime scene and take any photos as part of the claims process.

Review your home security

Once the police have left and you’ve notified your insurer, you may wish to review your home security and see if there’s anything you could improve on. Perhaps you might like to fit motion-sensor floodlights to deter intruders, or mount an outdoor security camera (in a 2015 study of police detainees, improvements in security was the most cited deterrent).

Installing deadbolts on doors, window locks, shatter-resistant window glass and an alarm system can also better secure your property – and may even help lower your home and contents insurance premiums, too.

A home break-in can be an extremely stressful event and it will take time to recover from it.

Securing your property, reviewing and updating your home and contents insurance (if required) and creating a personal inventory of your belongings for the future can all help you feel more empowered in the weeks and months after dealing with a burglary.

You should also take some time to process what’s happened and don’t try to go through this alone – reach out to friends or family (or a counsellor) if you’re feeling particularly anxious or vulnerable. Getting the support you need will go a long way towards helping you feel comfortable once again in your own home. We hope this article has been helpful to you.

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