The First 24 Hours After a Burglary

If you ever return home and notice any signs of a burglary - a broken window or a door ajar - do not enter your house or apartment alone. Call the police from a neighbor's house and wait.

If you are already inside when you discover there has been a break-in, don't touch anything: you may destroy that one fingerprint that could be used as evidence. You should, however, call the police. Chances are the burglar didn't use your phone.

While you wait for the police, make a preliminary inventory of things you can see are missing. Don't open drawers or shuffle through closets, but note if they look as though they have been disturbed. Give the police this information. Let them know you can provide them with serial numbers and photos of stolen property, if you have them.

After the police leave, arrange to have your locks rekeyed and broken windows fixed. Make sure your inventory of missing items is complete and use it to report what's been stolen to your insurance company.

Try to assemble documentation for major items: receipts, invoices, jewelry appraisals, warranties and photographs.

The first day, as well as for some time after, expect to feel violated. Talking about the break-in with friends and neighbors can help you ventilate your feelings and alert them to be on the lookout for unfamiliar people or cars in the area.

Most people have trouble sleeping, knowing that a thief has been in the bedroom (they often head there because that's where the money and jewelry is usually kept).

The best cure for a burglary, of course, is prevention, and that's where we can help. For more information on keeping burglars out of your home, call your local locksmith.