Our home was broken into. What now?
July 16, 2007 9:59 PM   Subscribe

We just figured out our house was burgled. One laptop and a necklace or two missing. No one is in the house. We can see where they got in and we've secured it. What should we do now? File a police report? What about the laptop? Any identity theft steps to take? We changed the email passwords and stuff... Other suggestions welcome.
posted by scarabic to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Definitely call the police and file a report. Your insurance company will want the report if you want the items replaced/paid for. Depending on what kind of information was on the laptop, you may want to create a credit alert with the major credit agencies.
posted by puritycontrol at 10:05 PM on July 16, 2007

Yes, call the police non-emergency number to report it. They won't do very much (unfortunately, they don't have the resources to do CSI: Your Living Room for a routine break-in) but you will need the paperwork if you later file an insurance claim. It is also a chance to talk with the responding officer about your house security, whether there is a pattern of this in the neighborhood, etc.

If you have insurance, and the value of what was taken (plus the damage caused by the break-in, such as broken window locks) exceeds your deductible, you will probably want to file a claim. Phone your insurance agent in the morning, and they can walk you through the process. (I have heard plenty of anecdotes that making a claim can lead to them dropping your coverage or tripling your rates, but that was not my experience when I went through this a year and a half ago. Obviously, ymmv, and so on.)

Consider changing your locks if there is any possibility that the thieves might have taken a spare key, or just for your peace of mind.

After a day or so, when you've had time to relax, go through your house and do a full inventory. You might be surprised to realize other things have been taken as well, that you didn't notice at first. You can always amend the initial police and insurance reports as you discover more damage or missing items.

If you are renting, you probably should call the landlord, especially if there was property damage during the break-in. Also, over the next week or so, let your neighbors know that this is happening in the neighborhood, so they will know to pay more attention to locking up, reporting suspicious characters, etc.
posted by Forktine at 10:15 PM on July 16, 2007

Check around in your neighbors' trashcans, landscaping, and nearby empty fields; a lot of burglars dump their booty in out-of-sight but accessible locations for later pick up.

Account for the whereabouts of all your spare car keys: a relatively common followup to a house burglary is coming back to ransack or steal the car.
posted by jamaro at 10:55 PM on July 16, 2007

Response by poster: Good suggestions, thanks. Hopefully the insurance will be worth having.

I called the Oakland non-emergency line. After a long hold, I was told to call back tomorrow as they don't have the resources to take a report now.

The stupid fuckers missed quite a lot of stuff... a pocket digital camera sitting on the kitchen counter, for example. An ipod nano on the desk. What is up with that?

I'm pretty sure I know who it was. On Thursday a man came to the door at about noon with a sob story about needing money for baby formula. My girlfriend (bless her heart) fell for it and gave him a few bucks. This in and of itself is nothing remarkable, just another typical sob scam, BUT he returned at 11PM that same night and rang again. When I answered he had a new sob story about how he got the formula but still needed diapers.

I think he was just ringing to see if anyone was home. Why else would he be ringing at such odd, spread-out hours? You *know* before someone sneaks over your fence to break into your second story window that they ring first to see if anyone answers.
posted by scarabic at 11:36 PM on July 16, 2007

Response by poster: Oh, but the police line said they would come out and take fingerprints. Those probably go into a hole... but hey, it doesn't hurt.
posted by scarabic at 11:39 PM on July 16, 2007

I hope this is not too late to be helpful, but when we were broken into, the police also did come and take fingerprints. (I was stunned; I figured they would just do a routine write up for the file.) The dispatcher I spoke to told me NOT to clean up before the police came to check things out. It was good that she told me this, because I was in the middle of trying to put things back into drawers and tidy up (the house was ransacked). So it is helpful if you don't clean up too much because you might wipe away useful fingerprints.

A couple of weeks later, there was another break in nearby and the police actually caught the burglars in the act. If those people's prints in had matched prints from our break in, they could have had proof to link the two. (Unfortunately, the prints from our house were not clear enough for any sort of proof, but I am convinced it was the same people.)

I am sorry that this has happened to you. It is hard when your space and sense of personal security are invaded. The guy who came to your door twice and his hard luck story definitely do sound suspicious. Good luck.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:36 AM on July 17, 2007

keep an eye on ebay, craigslist, etc. for your stolen goods.
posted by bruce at 1:05 AM on July 17, 2007

Unsaid, so: consider installing a security system. If you haven't got one already...
posted by roygbv at 3:05 AM on July 17, 2007

contact the manufacturer of the laptop, and tell them it's stolen. they'll need the police report number. i've seen laptops returned when someone brings it in for repair.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 4:52 AM on July 17, 2007

The police will probably ask you to get serial numbers for whatever was taken that might have one. When we were broken into about 7 years ago, the druggies who did it had pawned everything within an hour, and the police were able to use the serial numbers to catch them.
posted by JohnYaYa at 6:23 AM on July 17, 2007

As JohnYaYa said above, the pawnshops are a likely place for stolen goods - you should check there.

Sounds like it was definitely the creepy guy who was at your door. If you have a neighborhood association or some kind of local group, it may be a good idea to get the word out so others keep an eye out for the SOB.
posted by altcountryman at 10:09 AM on July 17, 2007

Response by poster: On the subject of alarms: I could use some convincing. I have this impression that they don't really do anything except go off when you don't want them to. If a thief were to trigger it, the alarm company would call the house... then what? Seems expensive and annoying.

But I'm willing to be convinced otherwise if people have had more positive experiences.
posted by scarabic at 11:54 AM on July 17, 2007

... then what?

A few of my relatives have them, the way theirs all work is the alarm company calls the phone number(s) which the homeowner has specified as the alarm activation contact and asks for a passcode. If the call isn't answered or the person answering the phone is unable to supply the proper passcode*, the house alarm keeps ringing, the alarm company reports the alarm activation to 911 dispatch who forwards the details to the local police dept, who may or may not assign urgency to responding to the call (example: Fremont Calif. PD, recently decided they were no longer going to respond to 911 calls placed by alarm monitoring firms) and/or sends out some of their rent-a-cops (which is what those little lawn signs claiming "Armed Response" are warning about). There's several other levels of coverage such as help-I've-fallen-and-I-can't-get-up panic buttons and monitored smoke detectors.

So, at a minimum, an alarm system makes a racket which *might* encourage a burglar to leave your house quickly; alarm company warning labels in your window *might* be a deterrent to keep a burglar from trying to enter in the first place. A monitored alarm system offers the theoretical protection of someone calling 911 on your behalf. IMO, based upon what I've seen among my (elderly) relatives, residential alarm companies do not sell practical protection as much as they sell "peace of mind."

*I inadvertently set off the alarm while housesitting a relatives' home, didn't know the passcode and was still able to talk the (major national firm's) alarm company rep into turning off the alarm by coming up with enough personal information about my relatives. Note that I could have come up with the same details even if I was on bad terms w/ my relatives so using that as a substitute for the proper passcode wasn't secure and made me think less of the purported level of protection offered by the alarm monitoring co.
posted by jamaro at 5:12 PM on July 17, 2007

Oops, didn't mean to imply that 911would send out rent-a-cops, rather the alarm company might if you are subscribed to that level of service.

(cut to one of my favorite scenes in Grosse Pointe Blank)
posted by jamaro at 5:36 PM on July 17, 2007

so yeah, here's a form you can print out and fill in and fax to the OPD.

opd crime report

the OPD is completely overworked. its a long, long story. bottom line is that there are probably 2-300 fewer cops in OPD than are needed to keep order in a city this size. and now the city finally pulled back the 15 cops that were preventing OBL from unleashing a devastating attack on the airport, except that they want to *sell* these cops to the different neighborhoods by using redevelopment funds. its ridiculous.
posted by joeblough at 9:30 PM on July 17, 2007

This exact thing happened to us just over a year ago. Stole a (work) laptop and nothing else (not the ipods sitting next to the laptop or the camera across the room). We called the cops who came out 12 hours later, our leasing agency, who came about 6 hours later, and the renter's insurance.

We also reported all our credit cards as stolen because we keep them in a desk drawer and not on us, and we couldn't be positive they didn't copy the numbers down or something. I would suggest this if it's relevant to your situation.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 8:11 AM on July 18, 2007

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