My home was broken into last weekend, and having never dealt with something like this before, I thought it would make a pretty good post in case (god forbid) anyone else ever has to go through it. If you’ve been a victim of theft, I’d love to hear your suggestions. Burglary can happen to anyone, anywhere, so I think is probably relevant for wherever you are. See below for all the things I did/wish I had done, as well as some suggestions on what you can do when this happens to a friend.
Duh! Call 911 the second that you think you’ve been burglarized or robbed. But if you notice that your neighbor’s house has been burgled, know that the police aren’t going to come until the actual resident is there. My neighbors called on my behalf but the police wouldn’t show up until I actually got home.
It’s really important that you report crimes to the police because the amount of patrol that you get in your neighborhood is related to how much crime there is. Trust me, this is a terrible experience and you should help prevent it from happening to your neighbors. (See below for ‘Know Your Neighbors’.)
I’d also like to point out that you can also file a report online through the Community Online Reporting Program, which I’ve gotten a much better response from. I filed a report directly with an officer to report the burglary, but I filed an online report for credit card fraud.
Don’t Go In! Don’t Touch Anything!
Don’t go into your home if you think there’s a chance that the burglars are still inside. And if they’re gone, resist the temptation to start cleaning everything up. The police probably aren’t going to dust for fingerprints (well, they didn’t in my case) but they need to at least see what they’re dealing with.
Have the Seattle Police Department Non-Emergency Number In Your Contacts.
It’s (206) 625-5011. You’re going to be using it a lot to request follow ups and to submit supplemental information to your incident report. It will also come in handy when your neighbors are causing a ruckus and playing Skrillex or death metal at top volume at 4am. Enter it into your contacts now to save you from having to look it up later.
I mean it. Everything. In our case, they did not steal our checkbooks but we can’t know whether or not they stole a check from the middle of the book or took a picture of our account number or something like that. They could have also grabbed a bank statement or something with personal information, so I HIGHLY suggest that you play it safe and call your bank immediately. Even though I was in possession of my debit and credit cards, they found a card that I didn’t know was still linked to my account and went on a shopping spree.
Make Lists, Draw Pictures.
You’re probably not going to be able to report everything that was stolen immediately. I keep finding things that are missing even four days later. Keep a list and make sure to note any identifying characteristics. For example, my Louis Vuitton bag, while beautiful, has straps that are about to break off (take that, burglars!). I made sure to note that in my police report and I also went through and drew pictures of everything that I could think of. I made it into an art project which was both fun and kind of therapeutic even though I cried through a lot of it.
As I rebuild, I’m definitely going to jot down the nicer items that I accumulate so I can more easily identify when they are missing. I drew four pages of items and that was because I scoured my Facebook account for photos of jewelry to determine what was gone. That was really sad too, because I also realized how much I’ve just simply lost over the course of my life.
Mail In Your Victim’s Report.
We turned ours directly into the police station because we (wrongfully) assumed that they would want to meet with us and take further statements in person. No, instead we just handed them to the officer through the glass partition and went about our evening (read: moping around). Not much of a point in visiting the precinct, so save yourself a trip and just put it in the mail.
Get Renter’s Insurance.
DO IT RIGHT NOW. The number one thing that people are going to ask you when you tell them you were robbed is “do you have renter’s insurance” and you are going to feel like an idiot each and every time you say “No, I do not have renters insurance”. Since losing your stuff is bad enough, don’t make it worse by having the knife dig a little deeper each time someone points out how nice the insurance check would be.
You can get renter’s insurance really easily through your bank online, or you can add it to your car insurance. At only $7-$12/month, it’s worth it. If you have roommates, you should check and see if your coverage extends to them as well.
Do Not Assume That You Don’t Have Anything Worth Stealing.
One common reason for not having renter’s insurance is the belief that you have nothing of value. Friends, this is absolutely not true. It is only after something is stolen and you can’t access your bank accounts to replace those items that you realize just how valuable they really were. Furthermore, your stuff does have value! It’s your stuff! You chose it, or it was given to you, and it’s sentimental and when you add it up, it’s certainly worth more than the renter’s insurance payments – without actually doing any math, I’d guesstimate that our stolen TV, laptop, jewelry, purses, etc. were valued at probably about $4-5K – not to mention the damage from the credit card fraud.
Know Your Neighbors.
Go introduce yourself to your neighbors. Right now. Wellllll, after you get renter’s insurance and plug the SPD non-emergency line into your phone. My neighbors are the ones who reported the crime to me, called the cops initially, made sure that my cat was safe, waited for the police to come, and fed me tequila shots to help calm me down. They were all home as it happened and were just as freaked out as I was.
In my case, it proved to be particularly important because we went around and asked our neighbors if they’d seen anything suspicious, and lo and behold, one of them had. He’s an employee at a big downtown retailer and he happened to see a girl walking up the stairs and back towards our apartment several times – a girl that he recognized from having attempted to return merchandise to his store. Hello, suspect!
Let Your Community Blog Know.
I didn’t actually do this, but I probably should have at least Tweeted out that I’d been burglarized because it’s a great way to spread information and mobilize people to be on the lookout. Here’s a link to all the community blogs in Seattle – find yours and check it often! It’s a GREAT way to stay up-to-date on the goings-on in your neighborhood and also a good resource should you ever lose a pet.
I don’t think that the modern day robber is stupid enough to put their stolen goods on Craigslist, but you might as well check it regularly just in case. It’s just about all that you can do, especially when there’s no indication that the cops are doing anything. It might make you feel better.
Call Some Pawn Shops.
If browsing Craigslist isn’t fulfilling your pursuit of justice, you might choose to call some pawn shops. But I will warn you: the pawn shop system appears to be broken. The police told us that the pawn shops have to wait 30 days to sell the items that they get, and the pawn shops told us that the cops are supposed to review their lists for the stolen goods. Sounds to me like no one is actually doing anything at all, so good luck to you.
Secure Your Home.
My landlords would have you believe it was my own damn fault for not locking the window, but I would counter that and suggest that perhaps regular maintenance and security checks of the units in our building might help prevent something like this in the future. I’ve lived here for years and only just got SCREENS, let alone the primitive white PCV pipe that they’ve determined is the best “security” system for keeping the windows from opening too far.
Hopefully your landlords are a bit more responsive than mine, but just make sure you’re locking your windows and bolting your doors and that your computers or any other personal items aren’t in plain sight. You don’t want to tempt anyone.
Plan to be Distracted.
People react to events like this in different ways, but I have found that I’m super paranoid and also super absent-minded. I have had SO much going on professionally at the same time that this has been happening, and I’m wildly behind and struggling to catch up. People have been remarkably understanding because by and large everyone understands how terrible this is, but I’ve been doing some really stupid stuff like forgetting to get off the bus and leaving important information on the counter at the bank. I’ve also been really really really tired – thinking about how awful this was and how much more awful it could have been is literally exhausting.
What To Do When Someone You Know Is a Victim of Theft/Robbery/Burglary/Mugging.
All of the calls, emails, texts, IM’s and other forms of communication were SO NICE. I couldn’t even keep up with them and I apologize if I didn’t get back to you. Obviously I’m fine, mostly, and posting this blog – but really – thank you for asking. The offers of help were even more generous but I really couldn’t think of any way to take people up on them. The things that I needed weren’t really things that anyone could help me with: I needed a new (preferably flat screen) television and I also needed access to my bank accounts, and I needed a really expensive power adapter.
However, one thing that people could and can do is help to replace my stolen jewelry. Sure, most of it came from Forever 21 but there was a LOT of it. This is actually the second time in the last two years that I’ve lost most of / all of my jewelry. The first time I was in DC and I lost all my best stuff – I’ve been working to recover from that loss ever since. The theft of almost everything in the burglary has literally wiped me out – I have something like 4 pairs of earrings left – and no bracelets, necklaces or rings. It’s so sad.
The other thing you can do when this happens to a friend is to buy them drinks (to numb the pain), or bring them food or take them to dinner. It turns out that being burglarized is EXHAUSTING and cooking is literally the last thing that I want to do. I’d take MYSELF out except, remember, I cancelled all of my cards and am in the midst of dealing with credit card fraud and lord knows when that will sort itself out.
Flowers are also a completely wonderful surprise and really help to brighten up the spots that are now empty because of the break-in. I put mine right where the television used to be to cheer me up a little bit. Offering to accompany a victim on their “life restoration” errands is also a nice gesture, especially to provide moral support.
If you have any tips or tricks to add, please let me know. I hope this never happens to you!