Best practices after a burglary – Police reports, insurance, safety, etc.

Per the excellent advice of Gideon Parker in another thread, I’m starting a forum topic about what to do AFTER a burglary.  (There are already plenty of threads about how to prevent one; this thread is about what to do if it happens anyway. There are already plenty of threads about identity theft etc. too, which is also a concern after a burglary if they stole any of your files, so I won’t repeat that content here).  Here’s some advice from personal experience:

  • Take a deep breath. Take another one. And another. Pause. Realize that it is just stuff. Recognize and appreciate the fact that you are, actually, fine.  This is just another experience in a long line of experiences.
  • Touch nothing. The moment you recognize a burglary has taken place, get out of the house and call the police.  Resist the urge to go all over the house and find out what is missing, etc., until after the police have dusted for prints, taken photos, and finished their report – not to mention ensured that the burglars are gone.  
  • Call the police first, and then immediately call your insurance company. They will likely have a service that can come right away to do any immediate repairs necessary to secure the property (in our case boarding up the door and window that had been smashed in)
  • Take lots of photos and videos. Be aware that the police may have caused just as much damage as the burglars and that, too, is covered by insurance. If their fingerprint powder ruined your carpet, carpet shampooing and/or replacement is likely covered by your insurance. 
  • Ask the police for advice on removing the fingerprint powder from your furniture, carpet, and walls. Recognize that their advice will likely be useless and that fingerprint powder is never coming out.  This is the part of the crime scene aftermath that none of those TV shows warn you about.
  • Be prepared for STUPID comments from friends. A good friend, upon being told that you experienced a burglary, will say, “I’m so sorry that happened to you. How can I help?” A person who should likely be ejected from your social circle will say, “Did you have a light on? Was your alarm activated? Did you have deadbolts?” or other victim-blaming statements.  Practice this response, “Why do you ask?” and then pause and stare at them. Kind humans will recognize their error and perhaps recognize that the victim-blaming is a pathetic attempt to feel a sense of control over the uncontrollable. The burglary is solely the fault of the burglar.
  • Practice compassion for the burglars. Really. Whoever burglarized you probably has a far worse life than you do (and in my case, an even worse life when he realized that the stuff he or she stole was actually worthless).  As that famous quote says, “Resentment is like swallowing poison and expecting the other person to die.”  If you’re on this forum you were likely smart enough to have insurance and you’ll move on with your life. The burglar is still skulking around trying to make ends meet by putting his or her liberty at risk.  
  • Practice compassion for yourself. It is possible you will blame yourself for not having secured things better or what have you, and this self-blame will make you do irrational things like not claiming everything that was lost, or not going back to your insurance to add on to the claim when you realize that the fingerprint powder is never coming out of the carpet.  You paid for that insurance for years. Claim everything (and not a penny more – don’t let a burglar tempt you into committing insurance fraud.)
  • Check your keys and access cards. In the adrenaline-filled moments after a burglary, you might not think about the fact that if the burglar took a set of car keys, office keys, or access cards to other facilities, they might burglarize those at a later time.  Think about that and check that you still have all of them. 
  • Change your locks immediately and practice extra awareness for several weeks after the burglary. Skilled burglars apparently know that they have roughly seven minutes to grab what they want before the police will arrive (assuming an alarm system was in place).  If, during those seven minutes, they saw some other things they want that they don’t have time to grab, they might come back in the following days to finish their work.  They might also have stolen a set of keys to make it easier to break in.  
  • Have some chocolate. Chocolate makes everything better.

Looking forward to additional insights from the community. 


  • Comments (11)

    • 5

      Good afternoon M.E.,

      Not an additional insight now but just an additional comment re “Practice compassion for yourself”. Would recommend reading a pamphlet on psychological first aid.

      On the web can be found, somewhere pubs like SAMHSA (Best small USG agency I know about doing this stuff.  Must be reason it’s not a big, bloated agency like the others) has.

      Look for eg “Mental Health, All-Hazards Disaster Planning Guidance” .

      Sources for these first aid pams (All no-cost) are:



      1 – 877 -726 – 4727. 

      Had failed my first course on compassion for the burglars. Must take over. Instead, will use this tuition for some Trader Joe’s chocolate for a relaxing, wind-down espresso break.

    • 3

      I know this topic is focusing on what to do after a burglary, but I do want to make a point that has been covered many times on this forum of documenting things beforehand. This makes the AFTER portion 100X easier.

      Luckily I have been blessed to avoid a burglary, but have had my battery stolen from my vehicle before. A battery of all things! There was nothing the police could do because I didn’t have a serial number or even a picture of the battery. You wouldn’t have thought to do that right?

      If I had saved my receipt from the purchase from Autozone, it might have helped out. I learned my lesson and have since started to try and save receipts of my purchases of non-consumable items (no shampoo, food, or things like that).

      • 4

        This is very true. Fortunately for most of my more expensive items, like my laptop, I had electronic receipts so could get the serial number from my email (which I logged into from someone else’s computer).

        Which reminds me of another tip: If you have an Apple computer, after calling the police immediately lock your computer via iCloud. It gives you an option to put a lock message on the screen that says, “This computer is stolen. Please notify the xxx police”. That way if the burglar tries to sell it at a pawn shop, there’s a tiny hope of getting it back (so very tiny). According to Apple, by locking the computer this way no one would ever be able to use it, even if they reformatted it (has something to do with the serial number linkage).  I don’t know if that’s true or not but it made me feel better!

        Having pictures of everything helps too. I did have some jewelry with sentimental (not so much financial value) stolen, and apparently the police have some kind of program with the pawn shops where they provide photos of stolen jewelry and if the pawn shop turns it in they get a reward. 

        Details that I would have thought irrelevant were important to the police. We had a variety of foreign currency from overseas travel. The police wanted to know exactly how much and from which countries. Again – they apparently have a deal with the foreign exchange service at the local airport that if someone comes in wanting to exchange that kind of currency for dollars, the exchange will contact the police and get a reward.  According to them, most of these kinds of burglaries are from people desperate to support their substance use disorders and trying to get money any way they can to do that. So they’ll make irrational choices like pawning the stolen jewelry nearby, and then you can maybe get it back. 

      • 2

        I didn’t know any of that, so thank you for teaching me something new. I do have a bit of foreign currency, I’m going to take pictures of that and notate the serial numbers.

    • 3

      The natural reaction of most people would probably be to identify everything that was damaged or stolen and then call the police and insurance company. So it’s good you mention to call them first. 😁

      Something I learned from my one insurance claim is that you can always add things later as you discover them. Get the ball rolling ⚽ and call your insurance company and start the claim, they will tell you to take pictures 📷, send in receipts, and share serial and model numbers with them. I was adding things beyond the initial phone call later down the road as I discovered things were damaged.  It probably is the same for a police report and you can add things later.

    • 3

      Great advice M.E.!!  Especially the mental and emotional aspects!  A few additions and suggestions:

      Echoing the advice you made about locking your laptop remotely, there are similar options for Apple phones, Android and derived, Microsoft accounts. Laptops, phones, devices and sometimes cars – may have choices other things don’t and it’s worth looking into them based on what was taken.  It’s too numerous to list here but the gist is, based on what was stolen consider your options and what actions you can and should take.  If you can determine the location, be sure to report that to the police.

      Adding some to the heightened awareness AND self-care:  after you have had time to breathe do an honest review on what happened and what, if anything, could have done better.  Maybe another, stronger lock on the door?  Maybe more outdoor lighting in a certain area?  Maybe better documenting of items?  Whatever the situation, you’ll learn *something*.  Don’t beat yourself up.  Turn that learning into positive action towards prevention. Share it with others.

      • 1

        I once lost my phone and was able to use the find my phone app and locate it at a customer service desk of a business I left it at. They couldn’t tell who the phone belonged to and it was locked with a password so they couldn’t look inside. 

        I’m starting to leave a little piece of paper with my information on the inside of my phone case for any good Samaritan who finds it. Maybe I need to add a little sub note underneath that says “If you didn’t just find this phone and actually stole it, shame on you!”

    • 4

      If you arrive home and see that your front door is kicked in or a window broken, DO NOT enter your house. You may have just barely arrived after the burglars broke in and they are still inside. Call the police and keep an eye on your house in case someone exits, then you can record a video or tell the police a description.

    • 4

      Another tip or two:

      Review the police report for accuracy and completeness before they leave. I had a vehicle stolen and they recorded the year of the vehicle incorrectly. Other agencies were looking for a vehicle four years older, and much different in appearance, than mine.

      If you can print pictures of the stolen merchandise, do so and give them to the officer. I texted photos of my vehicle and a very distinct looking trailer that was also stolen to the investigating officer. None were attached to the police report or distributed to other agencies.

      If you can post photos of the stolen items to a crime watch site, do so immediately. I didn’t even know such a site existed (check with local LE agencies) and learned of it over a week after the theft. Of course I promptly posted pic’s and some detail of the theft. This is when I learned that the other agencies were looking for the wrong year vehicle.

      A final note…make sure your insurance will actually cover the loss! Ask your agent ahead of time to be 100% positive! Through some tricky wording (read the fine print) in our policy the trailer was covered but the vehicle wasn’t.

      No, the vehicle and trailer were never recovered, and yes we have a new insurance agent and very detailed policy. 

      • 1

        Getting as many eyes on your belongings as possible is a good idea. Posting pictures to Facebook and other social media outlets, posting flyers around your neighborhood, or even going to pawn shops and telling them what was stolen. 

    • 2

      I would add to ask nearby neighbors if they have cameras such as Ring, Blink or Wyze and to look for footage.

      My neighborhood has a problem with teens checking car door handles for any unlocked cars at night and now many of our neighbors have cameras. I’ve talked to local detectives who have told me with that they can trace the entire path they walked.

    • 1

      My insurance policy covers up to $1000 to rekey, replace, recode, or program locks and remote devices that were damaged in a burglary. Good to know because quality locks are not cheap.