What to do when I've been robbed?
October 31, 2007 5:23 PM   Subscribe

My apartment was burglarized a week ago Saturday. They took jewelry that isn't worth much but that meant the world to me, and money. The police came and took a report but seeing as this is NYC, my case file is probably already buried. I'm not sure what to do now.

Detectives believe the thief or thieves gained access into my apartment building and got to the roof through an unlocked door. They then used the fire escape to come through my window which had a window fan in it. The cops believe they came up through the fire escape and that these type of burglars usually strike during the day because they don't want a confrontation. However, my neighbor said she heard someone on the roof between 9-11PM so that fits more with the detective's theory. Prints were found on the window, but the robbers were wearing gloves so that's a dead end. I've since spoken to other people in the buidling who've lived here for twenty years and apparently it's common knowledge the door to the roof has been unlocked for at least two years. The super of the building confirmed this as he said he hasn't had a key to the door since he became super two years ago so it's left unlocked.

He notified the management, who never even called me to get the details of what happened. Instead, they put up a flyer that Monday reminding residents not to buzz anyone into the building. No mention of the robbery or anything. I called them and told them I was very dissapointed in the action they had taken, but they stood by their decision and never even once asked me what happened or you know, apologized for knowing there about the secuirty lapses in the building. There are several fire escapes that are hanging dangerously low where someone with even a little bit of upper-body strength could hoist themselves up.

I printed out my own flyer and put it on every floor, as well as in the lobby and in the elevator. Not twenty-four hours after I put them, they were taken down. So I replaced them. Again they were taken down. I'm pretty sure the management office instructed the super to take them down.

And now I'll get my questions.

1. Knowing about the security holes in this building, and knowing that the management office, super and other residents were aware of these, do I have any course of action? Even if they were buzzed into the budiling, or followed someone else in, if the door to the roof had been locked, they would've had no where to go except roam the halls, and no one is going to try to break into an apartment through the front door when anyone can get off the elevator or come up through the stairwell. The shadiness of the management office as far as not wanting to inform the other residents and repeatedly taking down flyers which explain the incident seem to feel like a cover-up. My landlord told me Thursday that a new lock to the roof door has been installed, but well, great. They've already taken everything they can from me. Is it worth it to try to get one of those sleazy, oily 1-800-LAWYER types?

2. I'm an emotional wreck. My apartment doesn't feel like home anymore. It doesn't even LOOK like my home anymore. I've replaced most of my "triggers" including throwing out a lamp where they unscrewed the lightbulb, replacing my blinds and getting a big stick of wood to make sure no one can get in my window.

Leaving my apartment for more than an hour causes me as much anxiety as it does when I'm in this apartment. I go from crying fits to bursts of anger. I'm weary of anyone and everyone. No matter how tired I am, trying to go to bed causes me great anxiety. The first week I slept during the day on my couch with my light and TV on. It was only two days ago I was able to sleep in my bed, but again, it was during the day with my TV on. I can't even bring myself to open my blinds because I feel it's the last bit of privacy I have. I'm paranoid. I wake up at every little noise. I run to my door everytime I hear someone in the hall.

Yes, I need therapy. Unfortunately the referral places I've called haven't been helpful as far as returning my phone calls. I've been in therapy before and had a great experience with it when I was in college, but now I'm weary of having to start all over, having to give my history instead of dealing with the present. Using every keyword I can think of, I've googled to see if there are any victim support groups in the NYC area and haven't found one for people who have been burglarized. Had I been exposed to asbestos, I'd be all set. Does anyone know of any support groups? Anyone know of a referral system which will actually return phone calls and work with me to find a therapist I can feel comfortable with? There's a few requirements I need when it comes to a therapist.

Moving is not an option unfortunately. I don't have the money for a security deposit, first/last month rent and every studio in this area is at least $300 a month more than what I'm paying now.

Thanks and I apologize for the length.
posted by firevoice to Human Relations (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
oh, god. i'm so sorry! i lived in new york for 6 years--i was never robbed, but i know how important it is to have a sanctuary for yourself. i can't imagine how violated you must feel.

new york has a great tenant's association that might have some good resources.

most of the local news outlets have some sort of consumer advocate desk. (channel 7 has "7 on your side" but there are others). i'm sure they're flooded with complaints, but try them. often the threat of bad press will cause someone to take action.

you should also install vent locks on your windows. they are cheap and work well.

i wish i could help you on the therapy end of things. if you are insured, perhaps your insurance company has a referral service? i hope someone else here can chime in.
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:10 PM on October 31, 2007

I know how you feel. I was robbed a few years back and my home didn't feel safe any more. It's a complete violation of your inner sanctum and it feels icky and awful.

And, like you, I couldn't afford to move at the time. But if I can offer you any consolation, it is that the feeling wanes. The first few days are awful, you're constantly jumping at any sudden, unexpected noise, but after time (in my case, maybe around a month or two), you do start to feel more at ease again.

I can't offer you any advice on what to do to make your home more secure, as it is my understanding that the Australian and American systems of what obligations landlords have are vastly different, but it seems you have little recourse but to take your own homes security into your own hands and install deadlocks and other security measures yourself. This may be difficult to do, given it sounds like money is an issue, but if you intend to stay where you are for any great length of time beyond today, I think you owe it to yourself and your sanity to do what you can to make the place harder to get into.
posted by Effigy2000 at 6:38 PM on October 31, 2007

we were robbed about a year and a half ago. for the first few weeks i was very scared and paranoid and did a lot of research about what types of burglar alarms i could install in my apartment (ha ha). i didn't feel comfortable sleeping unless my partner was home. etc.

as effigy says, the feelings wane, but your precautions won't (and shouldn't). give it time, and it will get less scary.

do you have renter's insurance? they might be able to reimburse you some.

do you have the police report number? you should have been instructed by the reporting officer on how to get that, and you should get the number, if not a copy of the report. and you can also follow up with the district and see if they've tracked down any suspects, etc.

it's all about taking whatever action you can.

i'm sorry i don't have any resources about support groups, but i know you're not alone.

our apartment agency also "covered up" our break in and another one that had happened the day before ours. they did not inform tenants of anything--i had to find out from the cops when i was getting my report number. i was pissed as hell at my managment company, but i think it's par for the course.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 6:59 PM on October 31, 2007

Sorry to hear about your break in, my Apt was robbed 3 times when I lived in NYC, once 2 days after Christmas, that one really stung, never got to play with any toys that year, but I digress. I would change the locks, It may not do much in preventing a truly determined person, people have broken into bank vaults, but it will give you a sense that you are taking action, and making yourself less of a risk for a repeat visit.
posted by kanemano at 7:46 PM on October 31, 2007

I too am sorry to hear about your situation. My apartment hasn't been broken into but I did have my car broken into. Quite different, I know, but they did take some things that were very important to me. (Stupid me for leaving them in my car.) I was paranoid too after that. But it does fade. Just learn how to try and prevent it from happening again. And as far as having any justice served, I'm afraid that no one cares as much as you do. I don't mean to sound snarky but it's true. I was furious and it didn't help that the police did nothing more than file a report.

My best friend's parents house was robbed shortly after my incident. I was talking to my friend's dad about it and told him how I felt like I had been raped in a way. He said it was strange that I said that because his wife felt the same way and the police told them that that was a common feeling after being robbed. Your privacy has been violated. You're mad. You have every right to be.

Sorry this is so long without much advice. I just want you to know that talking to someone is a good idea. Let the idea of getting your things back go. I'm sorry but they're gone. You will feel safe again. Give it time.
posted by smeater44 at 8:15 PM on October 31, 2007

> no one is going to try to break into an apartment through the front door when anyone can get off the elevator or come up through the stairwell

Sure, they do that all the time. That's what happened to us. It takes one swift kick to break down many exterior doors. And a ram will take down the rest, that is a heavy log of metal. We moved right away, and regretted the crappy expensive situation we got into. I don't know how you can stay there, but at least take consolation that you're probably in no good shape to choose a good place right now if you did move. Also, the night fears and all that can just as well follow you to the new place. If you have something else obviously worth stealing (maybe they looked around and couldn't manage to carry it right then), then do get whatever locks going that you can.

That's outrageous they left insecure access points to the building, but that's very common. You'd think they would protect the situation, but, no, not if it costs a couple hundred to fix a lock. Landlords, sheesh. They tried to tell us the locksmith would fix our door the next day. We had to insist, vehemently, NOW, because two women were not going to sleep in a lockless apartment. What I'm trying to say is the crappy situation you were put in was unfair, but also very common. I guess it's renter beware. The landlord and building manager are not really on your side most of the time.
posted by Listener at 8:17 PM on October 31, 2007

Let the idea of getting your things back go. I'm sorry but they're gone.

Oh, I have. I know half of my shit that couldn't be sold because it was engraved or too personalized is in a pile of trash on Staten Island right now. I just want someone to be accountable for what happened since I've now spent the last two days blaming myself.

Also, I should've mentioned that I have no insurance. Insurance money might've give me the means to replace my cheap earring collection, but it wouldn't replace anything they took from me emotionally.
posted by firevoice at 10:49 PM on October 31, 2007

Check out the local pawnshops, you might get lucky and find some of your stuff.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:14 AM on November 1, 2007

Someone stole a camera from my fiance's car that was only there because I was going to return it (it was broken, and worth nothing to them, but worth a new camera to me). It sucks.

Your reaction to this burglary is typical, but also alarming. The lack of sleep, crying jags, and anxiety all indicate mental trauma-related anxiety. If you can't get a referral to a therapist STAT, call a crisis hotline. Just having someone to talk to would be very helpful at this point in time.
posted by nursegracer at 7:18 AM on November 1, 2007

I’d call a lawyer as even the police report says it was the apartment’s fault. No the money will not resolve your issues but at least you can be a part of making that complex safer (and a few coins never hurt either – especially considering therapy bills).
posted by doorsfan at 8:32 AM on November 1, 2007

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