Burgled on Tuesday. Still can't leave the house.
May 21, 2015 11:09 AM   Subscribe

I was burgled on Tuesday while I was away all day. There is a high likelihood one of my neighbors was involved, and it is a certainty that other neighbors saw what was happening and did nothing about it. I've filed the police report, called the credit agencies, I'm checking Craigslist. But psychologically I am a mess--mainly, I can't convince myself to leave the house and get on with my life.

There are a lot things going on in my head. First, I keep ruminating about everything I did wrong. I forgot to set the alarm, which would have alerted the police as soon as they broke in. I don't have serial numbers for big ticket items; I don't even have photos. I feel like such an idiot for all that, on top of stressing about the time and cost of replacement of everything.

Second, I feel deeply betrayed and unsafe because of the likely involvement of my neighbors. I live on a block of rowhouses in a busy, supposedly close-knit community. Everyone knows everyone else's business. Given the entry and exit points of the burglary, the time it must have took (they went through everything), and the time of day it happened it is a certainty that at least one of my neighbors saw what happened and did nothing (and continue to do nothing). Given the irregularity of my schedule it also means whomever did this was keeping an eye on me. I have been hearing my immediate next-door neighbors were involved, but it's rumors and I don't even have their names because the house is the sort of house where people are constantly coming and going. So while I passed the information along to the police I don't know if anything will come of it. I'm a newcomer to the block so it's hard to not feel like an unwelcome outsider in light of this.

I'm trying to move on, but I'm reminded every time I open a drawer and find it half-empty, or go to look for the can opener or another toothbrush head or use my deodorant (they even took used deodorant) and the thing I need is missing. I need to finish cleaning up my place but whenever I start I can't stop dwelling on what happened. I also need to go to work and check pawn shops and get on with my life, but when I try to leave the house I feel sick. It happened during the day so it doesn't feel like any time of the day is safe. I'm having trouble sleeping.

I know it's all just stuff, but when you don't have a lot of money it's hard to brush it off. I'm better off than I was a few years ago, but I'm still on a precipice and they pretty much took everything that qualified as a luxury to me: from stockpiles of toiletries, to not-drugstore eyeshadow palettes, to the nice cat carrier, to the not-so-nice bike that I made nicer by kitting out as a commuter.

I can't just move, as I have six months left in the leas. Prior to this I loved living here--it's the best place I've ever lived. I want to get back to feeling comfortable. I am not usually one to "let the terrorists win" but this is really getting me down. Obviously I should do therapy or something but, as I said, I don't want to leave the house.

If you've had experience with a burglary what did you do to get over it? How did you move on and keep living in the same spot?
posted by schroedinger to Grab Bag (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Dude. Break the lease. If you live in a place where you automatically suspect your neighbors when you're robbed, that is a bad place to live, no matter how much you might wish it wasn't. Does your landlord own your next-door neighbor's place too? Then, if you're right about their guilt, it's partially your landlord's fault for renting to shady characters.
posted by Jess the Mess at 11:22 AM on May 21, 2015 [24 favorites]

I was also burgled, with an alarm that was on, and the neighbors saw nor heard nothing. In my case they came through the back yard, stacked some patio furniture up against the side of the house and pushed in a window*...no one saw nothing. Remember they are not there to watch your house or count the number of cars parked on the street. Your belief that they are somehow in cahoots is most likely just you over thinking the situation. Take this scenario: I 'always' lock my car. on the two occasions when I had forgotten, my car was broken into. Coincidence? I doubt it. Conclusion: An organized car thief who simply does a daily route checking to see which car doors are locked. Theory: In your case you could have a local cat burglar whose timing was just right and hit you on a day when you forgot to set the alarm.

* Window was not alarmed, but back door was so when they went to open the back door to create a 2nd means of egress it went off. They scrammed and got nothing.
posted by Gungho at 11:23 AM on May 21, 2015 [3 favorites]

I'm so sorry; this sucks. Do you have a friend or two who could come over and help you pick up and then maybe stay in the house while you go grocery shopping or whatever? Just to give you a couple days to get your head together while you figure out next steps?
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:25 AM on May 21, 2015 [6 favorites]

Hi! I can't help with a lot of advice about what you should do.. what I can tell you is that a lot of what you're feeling is 100% normal. Having this happen to you is incredibly traumatic.

We were robbed. We left the door open by mistake and went to sleep. They came in while we were sleeping and took my purse, and several other items. I didn't want to go anywhere or do anything and when I did I spent the entire time I was out anxious to get back home because what if they came back?! The only way I got any sleep was because the person I was living with was willing to sleep on the sofa. I use to get increasingly anxious anytime I was alone at home for awhile.. and for a good year I couldn't be home alone at night.

It gets better. Your brain has to work through this. I'm alone in that same house now, and aside from double or triple checking the doors every night, I'm mostly recovered. I do occasionally hear a weird noise that will bolt me out of bed or wake me up.. but the days of scouring the house for intruders with a baseball bat in my hand is over.
posted by royalsong at 11:28 AM on May 21, 2015 [6 favorites]

Maybe this will help. Don't take it personally, this is how someone gets money, or drugs. You are not in any way to blame. Here is a brief tale. My house was burglarized, some time ago. Yup, I was all flipped out. The police came, they gave me my case number, it was something like this May91-56203. I asked the officer what the numbers meant, he clarified, "May, 1991, the fifty sixth thousandth and some odd burglary in the Salt Lake Valley, for the year." I looked at that and called the insurance people. I hope you didn't take blame with your insurance company, because overlooking your alarm for once doesn't put you at blame.

For what it is worth, however, I can bet the bad guys have a program on their phones, that will reveal when your alarm is off, if not being outright able to turn it off with new black technology. So I hope you have replacement cost insurance. If no really valuable stuff was tolen, don't even make a claim, to keep your rates and deductibles low.

Being burgled, robbed, is crap. I have been stolen from on a couple of occasions, I still want my stuff back, still am angry in moments, or hurt if I imagine someone I know did it. I just walk away from that sense, because it doesn't serve me. I would relax about the neighbors and thoughts of collusion. That won't serve you.

When my house was robbed, I found out later it was a drug debt on the part of a household member, that no one could have even remotely guessed, it was long ago. The faster you repair your sense of OK-ness the better.
posted by Oyéah at 11:38 AM on May 21, 2015

I've had several friends get burgled at some point (as did I), and many of them were shaken up from months to even 20 years later; it really varies by person.

None of them did these things, but could you just to feel safe and comfortable in your own place?

Ask a friend/friends to stay over. Stay the night. Just because you want other people around. If I had a friend that was robbed and they asked me to do this, I would never judge and would probably stay over because ... so many people feel exactly as you do.

Provided that this is allowed in your rental place and you have a friend with one, could you borrow/baby sit someone's dog? It could be a mutual favor plus comfort from a noise making creature that will hopefully scare off burglars.


...the time of day it happened it is a certainty that at least one of my neighbors saw what happened and did nothing (and continue to do nothing)....

I would tell your neighbor what happened (the person or people who did it already know) and ask if anyone saw anything.

As an aside, I see things all the time - but I have no context to know if it is a problem or not (as in, maybe that person is moving). If someone commented about an activity that was out of place, it would help me put events and observations together and I would then report what I saw. I suspect there could be a neighbor in your same boat - but they won't be able to make the connection and report it unless you tell them.

I also know of one person who was robbed and they made queries and found out many other neighbor's had been robbed. So it might help you find a collective solution (as in, be on the lookout type thing for other neighbors and homes).
posted by Wolfster at 11:44 AM on May 21, 2015 [6 favorites]

We were robbed a couple of years ago, most certainly by a neighbor because it happened on hubby's day off, when he stepped out to go to the grocery store to get some creamer. So he wasn't gone long - just long enough for someone to kick in our back door and look in the most obvious places for cash and jewelry and then get out again. Our next door neighbor was robbed in the exact same fashion a few months prior.

We called the cops and changed our security measures and talked to all of the other neighbors (half of whom were home, including both sides of our next door neighbors, but no one saw or heard anything). The way I got past it was by telling myself that they'd already gotten what they were after, and wouldn't be coming back. No one gets burned in the same way twice - I mean, yes, you will hear anecdotal cases of people whose meth-addicted neighbors broke in every week looking for something to sell for drug money, but in reality that scenario is exceedingly rare, and in any case once something of value has been stolen you don't replace it, at least not while you're living in the same place. And people who break in to places regularly know that and know that your place has already been burned as a source, so they have no reason to come back.

This situation also makes an argument for not moving your stuff in all at once or at the same time of day (I've heard many cases from friends of being burgled not long after they moved in), and also for moving stuff in and out of your property via the alley / back door / least visible access to your place. We've lived on a quiet residential street for many years, know just about all of the neighbors (except the shady ones) and we still move new purchases into the house via the garage and back door access points.

I'm sorry this happened to you. You might feel better if you are able to establish a tighter community with your neighbors. Or you might feel better if you just move when the lease is up (or before). You might feel better if you change up your security measures (I know this gets into legal territory but I would do my best to do this without alerting the landlord). Only you know for sure. But in my gut I doubt you will be robbed a second time, if that's any consolation.
posted by vignettist at 12:15 PM on May 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

DO you live in Philadelphia and is a dog something you can handle?
posted by WeekendJen at 12:50 PM on May 21, 2015

I'm soo sorry you are going through this. It is traumatic. Our home is our castle. Vignettist is correct that after such a thorough haul, they aren't likely coming back. If you did get everything replaced by insurance there would be chance that some burglars would come back to take your NEW stuff. Or new people who see your new tv box in the garbage.

I lived in a neighborhood growing up that had it's share of burglaries. They are often crimes of opportunity: check the doors if they are open or if anyone is home, and if the coast is clear, go for it. I've had plenty of experience with people casing backyards or checking doors.

My parents even saw a burglar leaving our neighbor's via taxi. It was suspicious but wasn't enough to call the cops. So I wouldn't jump to the conclusion that your neighbors were involved or noticed anything.

Time will help as well as reminding yourself that everyone makes mistakes. I've had my car searched through because I left a door open and it's hard to forgive yourself. Decide what security measures are reasonable to you. A reminder to use the alarm? a dog? new locks? better window coverings? Light timers? and then accept that you are doing your best. You are!

I love Wolfster's suggestion to talk to your neighbors. If you have lost trust in some of them, it doesn't mean that you have to lose your trust with ALL of them. Knowing them better could also help make you feel safer.
posted by Gor-ella at 1:01 PM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

What a violation. This super sucks and I am so sorry you are going through this.

There is a high likelihood one of my neighbors was involved, and it is a certainty that other neighbors saw what was happening and did nothing about it.... I have been hearing my immediate next-door neighbors were involved, but it's rumors and I don't even have their names because the house is the sort of house where people are constantly coming and going.

"A certainty"? Please say more about this. I take this to mean one of your neighbors must have told you they saw someone they thought they could identify as a likely associate of your immediate next-door neighbors either enter or exit your home on Tuesday, but they didn't recognize what they were seeing was a call-the-police-now-level problem in that moment, or something? Hmm.... I know you want to identify the culprit right away, but if what I'm guessing was in the ballpark at all, be careful believing your neighbor(s) 100% on testimony like this. Scapegoating and rumor-milling about the so-called "bad" neighbor(s) often happens in a situation like this. Ask me how I know.

Ok, I'll tell you how I know: not long ago, there were 3 robberies in my neighborhood, and one of the first things the most busybody-ish neighbor did was to automatically blame the lowest-SES household, based on no evidence other than Things She Thought She Saw. And people actually believed her! Which blew my mind. But I understand why they did: they wanted closure. They wanted to believe no more bad things were going to happen in our neighborhood, case closed. Come to find out the true culprit was a different neighbor's 19-year-old grandson, a young man from a so-called "good family" (barf) with a secret drug problem, who committed the robberies while visiting her, and who got caught when he tried to pawn one of the easily-identifiable stolen items. Bottom line: things are not always as they seem. You're probably not going to be able to Veronica Mars your way to justice on this one, but just know that whoever did it must be pretty desperate for money, and probably in the grip of an addiction, and their life sucks pretty seriously if they are willing to risk life and limb over money and drugs-- if they keep this up they could get shot or ripped apart by a big dog protecting his home. That's cold comfort, I know. This sucks. I wish you peace.
posted by hush at 1:16 PM on May 21, 2015 [3 favorites]

They went through a back alley between two rows of rowhouses, a busy back alley that has barking dogs all up and down it with a lot of people who are home during the time it happened. I should specify: I don't think all my neighbors are in cahoots, I think some nearby neighbors likely saw something and did nothing, and will continue to say nothing to me or the police. Which is par-for-the-course for Philadelphia, I was just led to believe by my landlord (who lived in this house for four years prior to me) that this block was different and everybody watches out for each other. I'm basing that assessment on the particular dynamics of the neighborhood, though yes, I could be wrong.

For what it's worth: I am not "Veronica Mars"-ing my way anywhere. I strongly doubt anything will ever come of rumors and suspicions because nobody talks to police. It's a house where random people cycle in and out and I'm not actually entirely sure who the main tenants are, so if they did come from that house it's totally possible that whomever took the stuff is long-gone.

(for future reference: maybe less than 48 hours after a crime was committed is not the time to tell a victim that they should feel sorry for their assailants)
posted by schroedinger at 1:45 PM on May 21, 2015 [7 favorites]

I just want you to know it gets better. We were robbed in the middle of the night about a month ago... Despite locked doors, dog, security lights. In fact the jerk even used our security gate as a way to climb up to a first floor bathroom window he jimmied open. Talk about desperate.

I was sleeping, as was my housemate, and woke up to a guy rummaging through our living room shamelessly (he only got away with my purse). Since then I've had all the locks changed, Googled home protection a lot, briefed the dog on what she could do better next time. And it's only been the passing of a few weeks that has made it feel better. Just a little time.

I'd introduce myself to the neighbours, scrub everything in the house down until sparkling, get some stickers saying that your place is protected, assess any other break in opportunities and then be kind to myself. It'll be okay! If you love your place, I'm sure you can love again. All the best.
posted by teststrip at 1:50 PM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

When this happened to me, what no one told me was that thieves love to return to a successful crime location for another round. Make adjustments to make however they got in impossible or far more difficult. This could mean installing bars or better window locks or removing things that can be climbed up on. I got burgled twice by the same people because not even the cops warned me of this pattern. My landlord paid for the extra locks and bars.

I also let my neighbors know that I was working with the cops, that they had taken fingerprints, and that extra patrols were happening. I also asked them to please call police if they saw someone besides me going into my home. Depending on your own neighbor situation, this might work to discourage them if they're involved or intentionally turning a blind eye? You'll have to be the judge of that. If you do choose to tell neighbors, I'd also share that there's an alarm system that autocalls the police that's being used.

Psychologically, it helped me to rearrange furniture to change how the space felt. And, unfortunately, it takes time to get over the feeling of invasion, anger, and vulnerability.
posted by quince at 2:01 PM on May 21, 2015 [5 favorites]

Ok, yea this sucks. I think something that might make your more comfortable in the future is to make sure your neighbors aren't a bunch of transients. I had some transient druggies living across the street from me, in phila and it really made the whole block miserable. And one of the ways it did so is that you never really knew if someone around was unfamiliar because there was always an unfamiliar face because of the transient house. So unfamiliarity became the norm and that allowed some stuff to happen because people's normal alarm bells were numbed. Also I think a lot of people tend not to talk to the police too much because htey don't really trust the confidentiality of the information and are afraid of retaliation.

To feel better now, I think you just need time and maybe some proactive preventative measures. MAybe you could set up some webcam security camera. Loose dog in the house seems to be the best deterrent, but of course they come with all the other work necessary in keeping a dog.

You don't need to forma a relationship with your neighbors, but definitely tell them to look out because you were burgaled during your next "hey there" type conversation as you're passing. IF you tell them what happened, they may then offer up something they saw and you can add it to your police report as necessary.

The police probably won't do much or ever catch the perp, but at least you did your part so that if a pattern starts developing for burglaries in your area, they will step up the police presence in the area.
posted by WeekendJen at 2:33 PM on May 21, 2015

Ugh, sorry to have offended you, schroedinger-- not my intention and I don't think you should feel sorry for the people who did this. I'll go away now.
posted by hush at 2:44 PM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Be kind to yourself. Physical security is an oxymoron. You cannot defend against a determined intruder. Most security involves making other potential targets more attractive, but someone will always end up being that target. Figure out what steps you need to take to be less attractive than a dozen of your neighbors and get busy taking those steps. That certainly includes keeping in mind that a neighbor could be the adversary and not allowing them to get an idea of what sort of valuables they might acquire is a good idea.
posted by jgreco at 3:30 PM on May 21, 2015

The only thing I learned from my experience of getting burgled was to let it go as early as you can so that the suffering does not get prolonged.

Do not:
  • Obssess over how to track your stuff down. (Many burglars fence them to someone that'll sell your stuff in another state, the police told me.)
  • Set traps for the burglars.
  • Fantasize about how great it would be to catch the burglars and how satisfied you would be.
  • Lock up carefully when you leave.
  • Leave the house to meet friends. Do mundane stuff like going to the supermarket or walking around if you don't want to organize things.
  • Talk to your friends when you're at home, via text, Twitter, phone, or whatever you prefer.
  • Play an engrossing game, watch an engrossing movie, read an engrossing book – engross hard!
I did all of the "do nots" and all it did was make me angry and uncomfortable.

We did however, move when the lease was up because the landlord would not provide lighting for the dark side of the apartment through which the burglar entered.
posted by ignignokt at 4:04 PM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Sorry to say this, but "Jess the Mess" is right. Break the lease. We were burgled. We have ALL the security crap. But the alarms are only as good as the cops in your city. If they don't respond, then...........

I worked to get over it. tried to feel safe. got burgled AGAIN. got dumped by our insurance company. It sucks. At least you'll feel safer if you move.
posted by crw at 4:58 PM on May 21, 2015

Another vote for move.

This happened to me... more than once. Most recently and brazenly I stayed the rest of my lease, almost exactly that long, and didn't realize until after i moved that i just never really relaxed again.

The landlord was similarly sort of lying and also fucking useless about it. Yea, the place was awesome(and SO cheap for what it was) but it made me realize that the layout of the place and the sideyard and alley behind it just made it way too easy to break into. No amount of beefing up the place short of putting bars on ALL the windows and doors would have done anything.

I also second the thing about people returning to rob places again.

If you can't break the lease for money reasons, then it is what it is. But if you have an insurance check coming i'd honestly just spend it on moving.
posted by emptythought at 8:21 PM on May 21, 2015

It is OK to feel bad about this. Many people, for some reason, think that it is morally problematic to be upset that you were victimized. You suffered an injury and it was painful -- just as undergoing a breakup, the death of a loved one, and/or physical violence would be painful. You were injured, and it is OK to feel injured.

Maybe all of this is obvious, but some people take a long time to figure this out. Some people don't ever figure this out. It isn't your fault that you were victimized.
posted by Mr. Justice at 11:35 AM on May 23, 2015

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