House Burglarized While on Vacation - Now What?
June 8, 2017 1:51 PM   Subscribe

My grandparents just returned home from a two week vacation visiting us, to find their house had been robbed. Whoever did it knew they were out of town because their RV was gone, and took their time over multiple days. This wasn't just a quick pop in, grab the TV and laptops, and leave. They turned the entire house upside down and took everything of any value, including sentimental jewelry from my great and great-great grandmothers, the safe, etc.

I am 500 miles away and feeling incredibly sick to my stomach. I have never been robbed, much less to this extent, and have so many questions. I always figured if we or someone I know would be robbed, it would be the quick pop in and take the laptops type. Not taking every goddamn thing of value.

Pretty much all of the heirlooms and sentimental pieces through the generations were stored at my grandmother's house, supposed to be passed along to myself and my mother later, so they are all now gone. Everything my grandparents have worked so hard for is gone. And they don't live in a neighborhood with much crime. This had to be planned, somebody who knew that they had an RV and that because it wasn't there, they were out of town.

What do I do? What do THEY do? What is the likelihood of the people getting caught and/or some of this stuff coming back, particularly the stuff that can't be replaced?

They called the police and are waiting for them to arrive. I assume this will be a long process with trying to give them an itemized list, as much as possible, of the missing items.

I am 500 miles away from my grandparents, and my parents just moved halfway across the country. We can't be there to help. We are all pretty badly shaken up. I feel so sick and just have no idea what to do to move on from this, or to help them move on from this, logistically, financially, emotionally. I have a bunch of shit to get done and I am just sitting here paralyzed with anger and fear and sick to my stomach.

I don't even know what my exact questions are other than the ones posted above. Advice, anecdotes, information about robberies of this type, lists of steps to take, ANYTHING that might be helpful in dealing with a robbery of this scale when no one in my family has experienced anything like this before is appreciated.
posted by Malleable to Grab Bag (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Tell your grandparents not to touch anything and DEMAND that the house is dusted for prints when the police arrive.

Go to all the neighbors and find out if anyone has a camera aimed anywhere on the street. Find out if anyone saw anything, etc..

Call the homeowners insurance company. Do what they say.e
posted by jbenben at 2:02 PM on June 8, 2017 [11 favorites]

Many people have security cameras on their homes now. Start asking the neighbors what they saw, when, and whether they have footage. The police won't necessarily do a major canvas or investigation. The neighbors are likely to have seen an unusual car or strangers around. So sorry, this is the worst.

Even though you're far away, you can start looking at Craig's List or similar message boards to check for stolen items. You can also call local pawn shops, and advise them with the police report number. If you have any photos of the valuables, it can be quite helpful.
posted by quince at 2:14 PM on June 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Insurance company should help pay for most of it. Sorry about your heirlooms. Some of the items may already be at local pawn shops. Maybe your grandparents could go snooping around in a few days, and monitor online sites too.

We were robbed in college, and my roommate found his esoteric CD collection still in alphabetical order at the record store. They had a copy of the seller's driver's license. AFAIK no one was charged, and my roommate had to buy his stuff back.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 2:19 PM on June 8, 2017

Oh yeah, thrift stores too. The people that run them should be sympathetic and give you your stuff back without too much $$.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 2:21 PM on June 8, 2017

I don't know if this applies to your grandparents situation and maybe its not good to alarm them at this time, but after my house was robbed, the police advised me that its common for theives to wait a couple weeks or months (figuring many valuable items will be replaced by insurance) and then return to a home to rob it again. Letting all the neighbors know what happened, and asking everyone to keep an eye out for suspicious activity would be helpful.

* my housedid have another attempted break-in a few weeks after the first one, but this time my dog was home and they didn't get inside, just broke a window.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 2:40 PM on June 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

One thing that might help on a practical level is to try to collect family photos that might help them recall all of the many things that were in each room of the house.

In California, the Victim/Witness program provides an number of services to victims of crime, including free counseling. (The cost is funded by reparations made by people found guilty of crimes so they shouldn't feel about using the funds.) If they start to have nightmares or trouble coping, doing this sooner might help them regain their balance faster.
posted by metahawk at 3:10 PM on June 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

In that vein, I feel like someone on this thread should suggest getting a monitored alarm.
posted by uberchet at 3:10 PM on June 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

This is a tangential concern, but before they file an insurance claim, they may want to consider how recently the last claim was filed. Our house was burglarized in '13, and I filed an insurance claim for lost jewelry, electronics, etc. (the amount you get for jewelry is a tiny fraction of its value, btw). They paid the claim, but a month later I was dropped with a month's warning for filing two claims within 2 years (a previous one had been filed for a snow-related patio cover collapse about 21 months prior, and I'd forgotten about it). Our broker was unable to get another coverage lined up within that month and we ended up with a 6-month lapse in insurance coverage on a financed house before they were finally able to secure some crappy high-deductible, no-name coverage. It was terrifying for myself and my family -- in retrospect, I'd have just eaten the cost of the lost jewelry and laptops if I'd known this would happen. Original coverage was a mainstream company -- Travelers.

This really sucks for your grandparents, and I'm sorry. We forgot about the losses in time, but it took a few years before we weren't totally freaked out by the fact that someone had been pawing through our house.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 3:11 PM on June 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Our house was robbed twice as well, it was neighbors down the street. Good advice to be cautious.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 4:05 PM on June 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'm so sorry. I've been through a similar thing (my own house was robbed, but like your case they took many things that had way more sentimental value than street value).

Prepare yourself for the possibility that you will never see any of these items again. I hope I'm wrong, but my heirlooms are gone for good.
posted by potrzebie at 6:09 PM on June 8, 2017

Our house was robbed when my husband went to the grocery store. Same exact thing happened to our next door neighbors a few months prior. So it was definitely other neighbors who were watching our comings and goings. It's generally a quiet neighborhood, but there have been a couple of bad apples who were well known to the local police.

We didn't lose much since it was a quick pop-in, cash and gold (I assume the gold was quickly sold for cash) so I can't offer much regarding recovery, except to say that someone in another thread in the last couple of days suggested that swap meets are also places to watch for stolen items to pop up.

Not too long (maybe a year?) after we were robbed we had an attempted knock-knock robbery, but I was home.

After that we installed cameras on the property. Even better, we installed signs stating that cameras were in use, and since we did that we've had very few solicitors come to the door. So maybe that's a couple of steps your grandparents could take for the future.

My aunt and uncle travel extensively by RV. Number one they are good friends with all of their surrounding neighbors and have people watching the house when they're gone (for like, months at a time). Number two, they keep their RV parked at a storage facility down the road rather than on their property, and when they load out (pack to leave) they do so at the storage facility, over a period of days. When they load back in they go ahead and do it in front of the house. So that all cuts down on the obviousness of them being gone.

I'm sorry that this happened to your family. So glad to hear that it wasn't a situation where they came home and found the people still in their house, and that no one was injured.
posted by vignettist at 8:31 AM on June 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

This exact thing happened to me. I was gone from my house for a couple of weeks, and the robbers basically moved in for a few days and wiped me out of EVERYTHING. Furniture, clothes, gun, kitchen utensils, canned goods, everything. They even took my underwear. There were piles of stuff they discarded and piles of stuff they organized and were going to come back and get. The police came, dusted for fingerprints and were only able to get like two usable fingerprints but didn't get any matches and nobody was arrested immediately. HOWEVER. A few years later, whoever robbed my house committed another crime where they took fingerprints and he was arrested, went to trial and found guilty. He ended having to pay restitution to me for a long time.

So, basically what I'm saying is MAKE them take fingerprints no matter what and even if they don't immediately catch whoever did this, down the road, they may catch them. You probably won't get your stuff back, but man does it feel good to get that call when they catch the jerk that did it.

I'm SO sorry this has happened to your family. The feelings of violation, helplessness and anger are real and hard to deal with.
posted by TurquoiseZebra at 10:09 AM on June 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

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