Robbery - what next?
October 7, 2011 3:00 AM   Subscribe

Ok - our home was broken into, and everything of value was taken - what now?

Our home was broken into, and everything of value was taken yesterday afternoon. Thankfully, all pets are ok, but it is a serious mess - they took their time, ransacked the entire place, and found *everything* of value. I feel really violated and very angry.

We've filed a police report, and we can stay with our family if needed, so we have a safe place to stay. They took our computers, rifled through our files, and I have to assume that they have access to all of our information.

Today I plan on
1. Contacting our insurance company to find out what the next step is.
2. Changing over my bank account and credit card.
3. Making a list of items with serial numbers when possible to submit to the police of things that were taken. (and also for the insurance company)
4. Trying to piece my house back together - you can barely walk through it.

We also plan on moving - we know who at least helped with this - there's a ravine behind our house, with a path through to the other side, and that's how they broke in - through the basement, and then carried all our stuff that way. (So no one saw them.) except while we were fixing the back windows, we looked over that way, and saw them carrying some of our stuff through a break in the trees. The detective found a suitcase with some games in it in their house (with my name on the luggage tag!), but they had already moved any items that we really wanted back. (three computers, ipad, dslr, digital camer, multiple gaming consoles and portable game, jewelry. :( ) We're going to prosecute them, and obviously can't stay where we are (nor do we want to).

I am very *angry* with them - they broke stuff, although did not seem to be breaking things to break them, it's just what happens when you throw everything around the house. They took items that I cannot replace (or *parts* of items I cannot replace). I am incredibly grateful that they did not take the two dogs, or hurt the bunny and the bird. However, advice on how to deal with the anger would be appreciated as well. Mr. Needlegrrl is simply devastated.

I plan on contacting the credit companies to have them monitor our credit, as I know they have our tax returns with all information on them.

What else should I do? I know I'm not thinking clearly. (death in the family last week that we're still recovering from, in addition to this)
posted by needlegrrl to Law & Government (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Oh - and a note - we've already changed all passwords that we think they may have access to on our computers.
posted by needlegrrl at 3:00 AM on October 7, 2011

That's terrible. I'm sorry.

Sounds like your list is actually a decent place to start. I'd add to it the installation of a security system, if that's an option.

And, if you know who did this, consider bringing a civil suit in addition to the criminal case. The state will decide whether or not to press criminal charges on its own, but that's unlikely to get you anything. If you want damages, you're going to want to sue them yourselves. This means looking in the yellow pages for an attorney that does personal injury stuff. If you know who these people are, it shouldn't be all that hard to find someone willing to take your case.

Now it may be that these guys don't have any money. But unlike say, a car accident, this is a deliberate act of theft, so they won't be able to avoid a judgment against them by declaring bankruptcy. That means you can get a garnishment order against them, and you'll get a decent chunk of any wages they earn above a certain minimum threshold until you get paid.

The incentive here is twofold. First, you can get your deductible back. Second, if you find yourself underinsured, i.e. your available limits won't pay for your loss, you can get the rest of the money from the thieves.

Since you've got insurance, it sounds a little less likely that you'll actively need the money, so if you don't want to fool with it, just mention the possibility of subrogation to the insurance person. They'll know what that is, and insurance companies bring subrogation actions all the time. If they do, your involvement with the civil suit will be significantly diminished. Though you'll probably have to have your deposition taken and maybe testify at trial, you won't have to be the one driving the actual lawsuit at every step.
posted by valkyryn at 3:38 AM on October 7, 2011 [4 favorites]

Our house was burgled a few years back. You will want to start on a very detailed list for the insurance company- I put mine in a spreadsheet. Everything that was stolen or damaged, down to the very smallest thing, should go on it, along with the item's age and value, or repair cost if that is an option. You will use receipts for value, if available, if not my insurance company wanted me to show what replacment cost would be (I priced a lot of things out on the internet). Anything you bought online you may have an email with the receipt, or the retailer may have a copy. I had to do a lot of work on this, it was tedious, and from what you are describing, your list will be very long, but it will be worth it because they can't reimburse you for something they don't know about.

I'm sorry, I know this is really traumatic. I am so glad your animals are safe (the people who broke into our house left it wide open, but luckily only one cat got out, and he was waiting outside the door when I got home).

In the end it really is all just stuff, even though a lot of it was awesome and some of it is irreplaceable. You will think about what you need to replace-maybe not everything. We ended up reframing it as a giant, forced tag sale- all of a sudden we had traded a bunch of our possessions for money, and when the dust settled we didn't need so many of the things, and the money bizarrely came in handy in a big way soon after, allowing us to do something that would have otherwise been impossible for us and that really improved our lives. So you never know.

We didn't feel a need to move, ours was a random crime of opportunity in a generally area, but it totally makes sense for you and will hopefully help with the feeling of violation you have now. I bought adjustable bars and put them over several windows for a while (ours was a window break in). You may want to think a bit more about ways you can make your next home feel more secure.
posted by acanthous at 5:57 AM on October 7, 2011

*safe* area.
posted by acanthous at 5:59 AM on October 7, 2011

Check pawnshops nearby for jewelry (and possibly technology) and do this as soon as possible. When we were burglarized the cops went to a local pawnshop THE SAME DAY and jewelry that was undeniably mine, per the photocopies that the pawnshop owner took, had already been sold by the pawnbroker for meltdown. Unless your state has a law that specifically prohibits selling pawned jewelry within a set window of time (my state is still working on this), that is, unfortunately, legal.

We were able to prosecute the guy who pawned the stuff, though, because his driver's license was photocopied along with the jewelry, and we did eventually (more than a YEAR later) get some money through the judicial system for it. What acanthous said above about making a detailed list and pricing everything out on the internet is spot-on; that helped us get that money.
posted by dlugoczaj at 6:22 AM on October 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm very sorry for your loss of a family member and this horrible mess you are going through.

Seems like you are calm enough to do all of the necessary legal and logistical things to piece your life back together.

You can always buy new things, other things, replace things or not replace things. Emotionally, it won't be so easy.

I experienced a robbery when I was a child. They took EVERYTHING. I lived with my mother and my aunt (who was a teenager at the time.) They tied us all up. I cried and screamed the whole time. I wasn't scared, though I should have been, I was infuriated. I didn't like that they tied and gagged my mother. I fought them. I hit them, I kicked them, I screamed, I bit them. They eventually gagged me successfully and tied my hands behind my back. It took all three of them to do it. I think about it now and I feel the tears come to my eyes.

I am almost 43 now and this happened when I was around 3 or 4. I got over the things that I loved and miss, but I don't think I have gotten over being violated in the one place I felt safe. There seemed no longer to be a safe place after that. We moved and stayed with family, but it was not "our" home anymore. I felt like a visitor everywhere we went.

One thing I did gain is that nothing is permanent! That's a lesson that is very difficult to learn at any age.

Moving is a great idea, but don't expect to get over this quickly. Luckily for you, you weren't home. Thank heavens your precious babies are okay and they didn't hurt them.

I am assuming you wanted emotional "what next" since you have done everything else that you need to do.

I also would suggest a pawn shop to try and recover your jewelry and cameras, but it may not be fruitful since those shops may not be forthcoming knowing the items are stolen. And they know because the crooks will be "regular customers" and the pawn shops would be breaking the law when they purchase stolen goods.

Good luck.
posted by Yellow at 6:53 AM on October 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Check your local Craigslist for the stolen items, too, and report anything that appears to be a match to the police.

When you get into the new place...(I'm assuming you will own the house).. there are some things you could do that might make you feel more safe and can help ward off wouldbe thieves.

As mentioned by valkyryn: when everything settles down, you might want to consider an alarm system in your new place. Post the alarm company's stickers on your windows. It's not 100% guaranteed that it will never happen again, but it's a good deterrent. I'm paying $75 a quarter for my system, which also includes smoke detectors. Installation was $1500 or so, including several motion sensors and door sensors. So a good system should not break the bank.

Look for any vulnerable points in the new place and shore them up with the help of a good carpenter. Hinky basement windows or doors? Get them replaced, or bolster them.

I assume the new place's doors have deadbolts: if they don't, make sure you get good locks. If it's within your budget, there are locks with keys that can't be duplicated without your authorization. Make sure the door fits snugly in the frame when the door is closed and locked - that way the wouldbe thief can't wedge in a crowbar.

If there's a neighborhood association in your new area, join it and get to know people. Get to know the police, particularly the guy or woman who's in charge of patrols in your area. Call them when you're going out of town and ask them to check on your property.

I'm sorry this happened to you. It will take a while to get over it, maybe more time than you might think, but you and the Mr. will move on. It helps that you're getting out of the house that was burgled.
posted by Currer Belfry at 7:03 AM on October 7, 2011

Going forward using Steganos Locknote on your machines as a password manager will give you some peace of mind that if someone obtains your machine they won't be able to get to your passwords that are stored in a browser or a txt file.

Sure there are other solutions to this problem as well, I just presented a simple one.

That's the only little tidbit I can give you, sorry it's not your stuff back...

Hang tight, things can't get much worse and at least you're insured and unharmed physically. Little victories and all that...
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:16 AM on October 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding an immediate upgrade of your security. I hate to say it, but I remember a neighbourhood policeman when I was a student saying that the problem with whole house burglaries is that when the insurance claim pays out, the entire house is known to be full of new stuff.
posted by cromagnon at 9:37 AM on October 7, 2011 [4 favorites]

Also check your local craigslist
posted by Blasdelb at 9:51 AM on October 7, 2011

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