What to Do When You Experience a Break In

when someone breaks in

One Friday in March, I walked through the side door of my house like any other day. I had my arms full of grocery bags, and I was about to host a girl’s night with my friends. It was going to be a night of wine, games, and showing off my new home. But plans changed when I climbed our stairs to the kitchen and noticed shattered glass on the floor. At first, I thought the dog knocked something over. But as I got closer, my stomach sank when I noticed the broken window on our front door and the chain lock ripped from our wall. It was then that I realized someone broke into our house.

He had punched through the single pane window of our front door and reached down to unlock the deadbolt. He then kicked the door in when the chain lock prevented it from fully opening.

When something like this happens, people react in different ways. I remember screaming “oh my gosh” over and over again, checking to see if our expensive stuff was still there, and calling my husband. I didn’t cry. I wasn’t scared. I was angry. And I wasn’t thinking.

Something like this had never happened to me. And I lived in cities for five years. Heck, when I lived in Philly, I lived in a row home with a giant front window, snuggled in an alley that often saw questionable characters digging through the dumpsters. Flushed with anger, brimming with inexperience, and high on adrenaline, I did a ton of wrong things. Here’s what you should do when someone breaks into your home.

Get out of the house and call 911.

My husband was the first person I called. He told me to call the police… oh, duh. And when I got on the phone with them, the first thing they asked was, “Are you in the house?” I was. They told me to get out immediately. Why? Oh, maybe because the guy could have still been in the house! When you come home to a house that is broken into, you have no idea when the person was there or when they broke in. They don’t know when you’ll be home  – especially if you come home unexpectedly early – and they could still be in the house, hiding. The best thing to do is to get out of your house and go someplace safe, like a neighbor’s house.


It may be tempting to storm through your house, checking to make sure your valuables weren’t taken. It may also be tempting to want to grab a broom and clean up the mess. But, you should not touch anything. You will want to leave the crime scene exactly how you found it so the police can properly analyze it. The police also don’t want your fingerprints covering any the burglar may have left behind.

Take Inventory of Missing Items

While the police are there, walk through every room with them and take inventory of what’s missing. Make sure to look through drawers and in other storage areas where stolen items may not be as obvious. If you notice anything missing after the police leave, make a list and call them, so they can update the report. If you do not report it to the police, you may not get it covered by insurance.

With our break in, the only items that were taken were my cross charm and a bracelet, my husband’s watches, and money from our piggy bank.

Assess the Damage

You will need a copy of the police report to make a claim to your insurance company. In the meantime, calculate the costs of your missing items and any damage to the home that needs repair. See if an insurance claim is worth it.

While we did need to install a whole new door, the cost to replace everything was less than what we would pay for our deductible, so we decided not to file a claim.

Let the Police Do Whatever They Need To

The only time I cried that night was when the police officer told me he may need to ruin my jewelry box to get the only fingerprints he could find.

Real crime scene investigation is not like the TV shows. They don’t use this clean, white powder or high tech gadget to get fingerprints. They use this black powder that is notorious for staining surfaces. He needed to use it to get the one print he found, which was on my grandmother’s jewelry box. The box was the only item I wanted of my grandma’s when she passed away. The one item that made me think of her often. I debated to let him do it, but I knew I had to let him get that print. I sacrificed the jewelry box to get the print, and it is a good thing I did. That print would later be used to identify the man who broke into our house. And as for the box, we were able to get most of the black powder off.

Take Care of Yourself

Our break in was not as traumatic as some are. We were put at further ease once the guy was identified. But, for a few weeks, I did not feel safe in my home. At that time, I didn’t know who did it and if he would come back. I also came home every day expecting there was going to be another break in. While I was able to get over that feeling, some people may need help. If you feel stressed, scared, or highly emotional, it may be best to talk to someone about it.

Be Patient

Our break in happened this past March. It is now August, and we are still waiting on the prosecutor to issue a warrant. The first few months consisted of getting the fingerprint results. Now, the report is sitting in a pile of other reports waiting to be turned int a warrant. So, we have to just sit and wait. To say it is beyond frustrating is an understatement. However, there is nothing we can do to make the process go any faster.

What tips do you have for how to handle a break in?