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How to Report and Help Prevent a Burglary or Break-in

October 4, 2022


One of the most shattering events that can happen to anyone is a burglary or break-in in your home. After all, your home is supposed to be your sanctuary; your safe place to live. Unfortunately, it happens. Knowing what to do immediately upon discovering a break-in or burglary, and how to process the aftermath is important, along with preparations to help prevent a burglary in the first place.

How to Report a Burglary or Break-in

If you’ve come home and there are obvious signs of a burglary or break-in:

  • Do not enter the home. The suspect may still be inside and dangerous. Do not attempt to approach a suspect yourself.
  • Call law enforcement in the jurisdiction in which the crime occurred and file a police report.
  • Do not touch anything prior to law enforcement arriving. Your home is now a crime scene.
  • If suitable or necessary, stay at a neighbor’s home.

If you are inside the home when a burglary or break-in occurs:

  • If you can, evacuate the home via the opposite side of the house immediately. Do not approach the suspect.
  • Call your local law enforcement agency from a safe, outside location or a neighbor’s home.
  • Do not return to the home until after law enforcement arrives.
  • Do not touch anything; the home needs to be documented as a crime scene.
  • If suitable or necessary, stay at a neighbor’s home.

Your immediate actions are important for your safety and for proper documentation of the event. However, more of the work occurs after law enforcement leaves.

What to do After a Burglary or Break-in

  • Take photographs of the damage and of areas where items are missing or stolen.
  • Identify missing items. It is helpful if you have a photographed inventory of your home.
  • Contact your homeowner’s insurance company to file a claim. Your policy may cover stolen property along with problems related to the theft, like home or item repairs or replacement, minus your deductible. Look at dwelling coverage, personal property coverage and other structures coverage in your policy, and be aware that you may have personal property coverage for replacement cost vs. actual cash value. Some items may not be covered, or may have sub-limits, which limits the amount you can be reimbursed. Expensive jewelry, artwork and musical instruments are a good examples, and generally require separate schedules.
  • Find receipts for items, or provide records of where and when you purchased an item, the brand and model, and the estimated value. Provide serial numbers and warranties as additional proof.
  • Change the locks.
  • Make repairs.

If items are not covered by your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, aid may be available through the Federal Victims of Crime Act or the Office for Victims of Crime for medical services, lost wages or mental health counseling. A crime of this nature can leave victims feeling violated, fearful, angry, guilty, helpless and depressed, and create a lack of trust in others.

In Fairfax County, statistics on “My chances of becoming a victim of a property crime” like burglary or theft are 1 in 59, as compared to 1 in 69 for Virginia as a whole. And surprisingly, about half of all burglaries take place during the day, according to the FBI’s 2019 uniform crime report, with an average dollar value of stolen property listed as $2,661.

The good news is that the Virginia State Police’s Annual Crime Analysis Report for 2021 reports that burglaries decreased by 8.3% between 2020 and 2021 and that for the past 10 years, burglaries and attempted burglaries have steadily declined statewide.

Schedule a Crime Prevention Presentation in Your Community

Each year the Virginia State Police’s Crime Prevention Specialists reach Virginians through its “Crime Prevention/Crush Crime” program in which specially-trained Crime Prevention Specialist troopers reach out to schools, government facilities, businesses and residential communities. These specialists are available to conduct a presentation to your community on how to avoid crime and help prevent a burglary. Contact them at [email protected] or 804.674.2227.

To Help Prevent a Burglary or Break-in in NoVA, Use a Home Watch Service like Golden Rule Home Watch

When you’re away from home for an extended period like a long-term work assignment or vacation, you worry about the safety of your home. That’s why Golden Rule Home Watch & Concierge is here—to help Northern Virginia homeowners alleviate those worries through regular check-ins at your home, detailed reports and concierge services. To learn more about our Home Watch services, contact us at 888-928-2424.