A home burglary can be a traumatic experience for any family, leaving them with a range of emotions from anger to fear to vulnerability. It’s important to have a plan for recovering from this experience and preventing future burglaries.

In this article, we’ll go through some actionable steps and resources for families and include insight based on these experts in the field:

Key Burglary Facts and Statistics

  • On average, over 1.1 million burglaries happen annually in the United States — one every 26 seconds1 
  • 25% of burglaries take place during the day1
  • 81% of home robberies begin on the first floor1
  • On average, break-ins last 8–10 minutes1
  • 83% of burglars would look for security cameras before a break-in2
  • 10 am to 3 pm is the most common timeframe for a home break-in3

What To Do If Your House Was Broken Into

Discovering that your home has been burgled can leave you feeling shocked, fearful, and exposed. It’s important to channel the energy from these emotions into proactive and effective steps to respond. The detailed guide below will help you navigate through the challenge of having your space violated.

Step 1: Find a Safe Place and Call 911

Your immediate safety and that of your family is paramount. “The very first thing to do is to make sure the home is secure (meaning the burglar is no longer in the home) and that all pets and people are safe and unharmed,” says Edwards. 

If you return home to signs of a break-in or suspect someone might be lurking around with the intent to break in, avoid entering your home. Instead, retreat to a secure location, which might be a neighbor’s house, your car, or another nearby safe spot. Dial 911 and inform the dispatcher of the situation. Stay on the line and calmly provide the operator with all the necessary details, such as your location, any observations, and potential suspects. This information will be invaluable to the police as they approach and assess the scene.

Step 2: Check in With Family, Kids, and Pets

Emotional well-being is just as crucial as physical safety. Once you’re in a safe location, reach out to all family members. Ensure that kids, especially those who might be at school or activities, are informed and reassured. Furthermore, pets can be significantly affected by break-ins — they could be agitated, scared, or even hurt. Check on them and provide comfort, making sure they are in a safe space.

Step 3: Take Inventory of Your House Break-In

With emotions running high, it’s easy to overlook the details. However, making a preliminary assessment of the damage is critical. Do a walk-through of your home (once it’s safe to do so) to understand the extent of the burglary.

Take pictures of any damage made during the break-in and identify what was taken so you can make a complete report to the police and your homeowners or renters insurance.

Rebecca Edwards, Lead Safety Reporter and Expert at SafeWise

Jot down damaged property, areas of forced entry, and, most importantly, stolen items. This list will not only be essential for insurance claims but will also aid the police in their investigation.

Step 4: File A Police Report and Call Your Insurance Company

Reporting the incident officially is a step you cannot skip. Once law enforcement arrives, cooperate fully. Give them a detailed account, including any suspicious activities or individuals you might have noticed in the days leading up to the burglary. The more information you can provide, the better equipped the police are to track down the culprits.

Once law enforcement has been informed, get in touch with your insurance company. But what can you expect during this call?

Deep Dive into Insurance Conversations

Your insurance company will be your ally in recouping financial losses from the break-in. Start by having your homeowner’s or renter’s policy number ready — it’s your unique identifier and speeds up the process. The agent will likely ask for a detailed list of missing or damaged items. Here’s where your earlier inventory can be invaluable. Additionally, always keep handy any documentation that can verify your possessions’ value, like receipts, appraisals, or photographs. The clearer the picture you can paint, the smoother your claim process will be.

Step 5: View Any Footage

In our digital age, surveillance cameras and home security systems have become common. If you’re equipped with such systems, thoroughly review any footage from the time of the break-in. This can offer concrete evidence, help identify the intruders, and even pinpoint the time of the burglary, assisting both the police and insurance investigations.

Step 6: Clean Up Your Space

The tangible aftermath of a burglary can be distressing — a ransacked home, broken windows, and scattered belongings can all evoke strong emotions. Cleaning and restoring your space can be a therapeutic process, allowing you to reclaim a sense of normalcy and control. But remember, before you start cleaning up make sure the police have finished gathering evidence.

How to Secure Your Home from Burglars

Home is where the heart is, and ensuring its safety should be paramount for every homeowner. Burglars, unfortunately, see opportunities where you see comfort. By understanding their tactics, you can stay several steps ahead. Let’s look closely at strategies to fortify your personal space.

Entry Points Security

The first line of defense is always your entry points. Remember, burglars are looking for vulnerabilities.

Upgrade your locks: Invest in high-quality deadbolts and consider integrating smart locks. These offer keyless entry and can even notify you of any attempts to tamper with your doors.

“Make sure all of your entry points have functional, solid locks and use them! Burglars like an easy mark, so they often skip homes with locked doors and windows,” says Edwards.

Windows need attention: Often overlooked, windows can be a weak link. Strengthen them with robust locks and apply security film. The latter not only enhances privacy but also prevents easy shattering.

Guard the garage: Garage doors are enticing for burglars. Regular maintenance, coupled with interior door locks, can seal this potential entry point effectively.

Outdoor Safety Measures

The environment around your home is critical to security.

Illuminate: Motion-activated outdoor lighting can catch potential intruders off guard. A sudden beam of light can deter them from proceeding further.

Landscaping Strategy: Overgrown shrubs or tall hedges? They’re potential hiding spots. Trim your greenery for clear sightlines and eliminate potential sneak paths.

Man’s Best Friend: The mere presence or sound of a dog can dissuade many would-be burglars. Dogs’ unpredictability and territorial nature can be major deterrents.

Home Security Systems

In our digital age, home security systems have evolved from basic alarms to smart, interconnected networks. “Unfortunately, most people don’t invest in home security until after a break-in. But we always encourage people to be proactive versus reactive,” says Edwards. Surveillance cameras, doorbell cameras, and smart alarms offer real-time insights and alerts, ensuring you’re informed and in control even when you’re miles away.

Neighborhood Collaboration

Community can be a powerful tool in home security. Building relationships with your neighbors fosters a sense of unity and mutual protection. Establish or join a neighborhood watch program to stay informed of any suspicious activities. If you’re heading out of town, sharing your plans discreetly with a trusted neighbor ensures someone’s always got an eye on your space.

Personal Privacy, Valuables, and Social Media

In our hyper-connected world, oversharing can be risky business. Keeping a low profile, especially when away, is vital. Here’s the thing — burglars are increasingly tech-savvy. Flaunting vacation pics or new valuables on social platforms might inadvertently place a target on your home. It’s wise to share memories only once you’ve returned and to regularly audit your online privacy settings. Also, store valuables in hidden, unconventional spots to reduce the temptation for any intruder who does get in.

Make it Look Like Someone is Home

As the saying goes, it’s not about being there, it’s about appearing to be there. When it comes to deterring potential burglars, creating the illusion of an occupied home can be a game-changer. 

“One thing I’ve seen recently on apps like NextDoor is a resurgence of burglars using blue painters tape to mark potential targets. This is a technique that burglars use to identify the homes they are thinking of burglarizing to see if the house is occupied or vacant. They often stick the tape a the bottom of the door between the door jamb and the door (like police caution tape) so they can see if the door has been opened or not,” says Edwards.

Intruders typically prefer easy targets, and an inhabited house is rarely their first choice. But how can you effectively project the image of a bustling household even when you’re away?

Simple tricks can go a long way. Schedule indoor lights or a radio to switch on during evening hours using timers. Ask a neighbor to collect your mail and perhaps even move their car to your driveway occasionally. Consider gadgets like curtain automation — the act of curtains drawing back and forth is a subtle sign of home activity. 

Emergency Planning and Readiness

Hope for the best, but plan for the unexpected. Should an intrusion occur, being prepared can make all the difference. Draft a clear emergency plan with your family. 

”It’s important that you have a plan in case anything happens and practice this plan with your family just like you’d practice a fire drill,” Rader says. ADT recommends the following steps for an emergency event: 

  • Determine a spot where you and your family can meet up, both outside the home and inside the home if you cannot escape.
  • Practice your escape plan from different rooms and determine what you should do if you can’t use that route. Is there a secondary route you can take, or do you have somewhere within the residence you can safely stay?
  • Designate a caregiver for anyone needing assistance and have that person practice different scenarios so they know exactly what they should do. 
  • Create a designated safe room with a door that locks and heavy furniture you can use to barricade that door if necessary.  
  • Always try to escape before engaging with a burglar. If you can’t escape your home, you should next try to barricade yourself in a place that locks, like a closet or bathroom. Remain calm and quiet.
  • Once you’ve managed to safely retreat, call 911.
  • Don’t leave the safe room or locked closet until the police arrive, even if you think the burglar is gone. 

Assistance After a Home Invasion and Burglary

Navigating the aftermath of a home invasion or burglary can be overwhelming both emotionally and practically. Thankfully, there are resources available to help victims get back on their feet. From financial support to essential guidance, here’s how different organizations can assist you in the event of a burglary.

Financial Assistance

  • National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB): The NICB partners with law enforcement to combat insurance fraud but also plays a pivotal role in aiding burglary victims. Its resources guide you through the process of reporting the crime and securing rightful compensation from your insurance provider. Visit NICB’s dedicated section for victims for further details.
  • National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC): Crime prevention is just one aspect of NCPC’s commendable work. It also stands by burglary victims by providing comprehensive information, ranging from filing police reports to enhancing home security. Check out the dedicated resources on NCPC’s website.


  • Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC): Burglaries might expose you to the menace of identity theft. ITRC, dedicated to preventing and addressing the impacts of identity theft, extends support by helping you monitor credit reports and safeguard against fraudulent activities post-burglary. To protect your identity and financial well-being, reach out to ITRC.
  • Neighborhood watch program: Community solidarity can be your stronghold after a burglary. A neighborhood watch program, typically comprising vigilant neighbors, acts as a safety net, ensuring everyone’s homes and properties remain secure. Join or initiate a neighborhood watch in your locality for collective vigilance with guidance from National Neighborhood Watch.

Mental Health Resources to Recover From a Burglary

The emotional aftermath of a burglary can be just as harrowing as the physical breach itself. Victims often grapple with feelings of violation, vulnerability, and anxiety. Fears for one’s safety and the safety of loved ones can lead to lasting trauma. Addressing the mental and emotional scars is crucial for holistic recovery, and several resources cater specifically to this need.

Organizations Offering Assistance

  • National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA): Beyond financial and informational aid, emotional support is crucial for burglary victims. NOVA, a beacon of hope, offers both advocacy and emotional sustenance to those affected by crimes. Explore their supportive services at NOVA’s official site.
  • National Center for Victims of Crime: Recognizing the profound emotional impact of crimes, this organization delivers an array of victim assistance services. From personalized counseling sessions to support groups where shared experiences can forge healing, their offerings are vast. It also facilitates legal advocacy, further aiding victims in navigating post-burglary challenges. Explore their comprehensive suite of services on their official website.
  • Childhelp: Children, owing to their vulnerability, can be profoundly affected by incidents like burglaries. Childhelp dedicates its efforts to these young souls, providing specialized counseling and support services to aid their recovery. Find out more about its child-centric approach on its website.

Self-Help Tips Post-Burglary

You can follow some self-help tips to get over the experience of burglary.

Routine restoration: Establishing a sense of normalcy through daily routines can be therapeutic, instilling a sense of control.

Talk about it: Sharing your experience with trusted friends or family can be cathartic. Being heard and understood aids the healing process.

Mindfulness and meditation: Practices such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, and grounding techniques can diminish anxiety and stress levels, making them invaluable after a break-in.

The emotional fallout from a burglary is a journey, but with the right resources and practices, recovery is attainable. Ensure you prioritize your mental well-being, seek help when needed, and remember that healing is a process.


A home burglary is more than just a physical violation — it shatters our sense of safety and leaves lasting emotional imprints. While the immediate aftermath focuses on restoring security and reclaiming stolen belongings, the journey toward emotional healing is equally important. By leveraging the multitude of resources available, from victim assistance programs to mental health organizations, individuals can navigate the complex path to recovery. Moreover, proactively fortifying our homes and building community bonds act as further bulwarks against future threats. Remember, the strength of a community and the resilience of the human spirit are powerful deterrents against adversity. Together, we can rebuild, recover, and reaffirm our commitment to safety and well-being.

Our Expert

Rebecca Edwards: Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for SafeWise.com. She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past decade. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month poring over crime and safety reports and spotting trends. Her expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her expert advice and analysis in places like NPR, TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, HGTV, MSN, Reader’s Digest, Real Simple, and an ever-growing library of podcast, radio and TV clips in the US and abroad.


  1. Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2019). Burglary. Crime in the United States 2019. Retrieved from https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2019/crime-in-the-u.s.-2019/topic-pages/burglary
  2. University of North Carolina at Charlotte. (2013, May 15). Through the eyes of a burglar: Study provides insights on habits and motivations. Inside UNC Charlotte. Retrieved from https://inside.charlotte.edu/news-features/2013-05-15/through-eyes-burglar-study-provides-insights-habits-and-motivations
  3. ADT. (n.d.). Burglary odds across America. Retrieved from https://www.adt.com/burglary-odds-across-america
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Alexis Bennett


Alexis is a freelance writer with nearly a decade of experience covering the home services industry. She’s built considerable expertise in roofing, plumbing, and HVAC, as well as general construction and real estate matters. In her free time, Alexis enjoys coaching women’s golf. She lives in the Triad area of North Carolina.

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Alexis Curls is a content strategist on the Today’s Homeowner team. She specializes in home services research. She graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Science in Public Relations.

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