6 Steps to Surviving a Break-In

It’s every homeowner’s worst nightmare: spiders the size of cats with cross-sectioned purple onions as eyes. You’ve holed up in your closet, shivering uncontrollably beneath an avalanche of dress slacks and plastic hangers, blinded by sulfurous fumes, bracing the sliding door with both hands, listening through the slats to the tap and rustle of bristling bodies as they canvass the house, tracking your scent, that godawful clicking that’s almost like a purr, the scrape of their fat abdomens dragging on the ground.

But while you’re tossing in your sheets, throat stinging as that smell grows stronger, nearer, bracing yourself for the pierce of fangs you know is coming, your bare arm pressed against that gap between the slats, a home intruder might be making off with your valuables. You might wake up, drenched in sweat as your body desperately tries to purge the dream-venom, relief at finding yourself whole giving way to horror as you realize you’ve been the victim of a burglary. What then?

The truth is, nobody really knows how to respond to a break-in. Who burgles homes and why they do it remains a mystery. Nearly 98 out of 100 home intrusions cases go unsolved every year, and there are those who speculate that the criminals who are indicted for burglary and breaking-and-entering are willing martyrs, offering themselves up as tribute so the true perpetrators of these unknowable crimes can remain untouched and anonymous.

That being said, here are six ways to protect yourself in the eventuality of a break-in.

A smart phone, a book, and a laptop computer enclosed by thick metal chains

6 Steps to Surviving a Break-In

Just because you’ve lost your stuff doesn’t mean you have to lose your dignity.

1. Double-Check

Before seeking retribution, it’s always good to double-check and make sure you’ve actually been burgled. Was that bedroom window pane actually removed, or was it just really thoroughly Windexed? Check your cupboards. Did you leave your valuable electronics behind the sugar? Did that box of jewelry you inherited from your grandmother get mixed in with your dirty socks again? Maybe you threw out your refrigerator by mistake—Oops! Don’t forget to move the couch; small or thin objects, like loose change and flat-screen televisions, can easily get lost behind or underneath furniture. In the unlikely event that you still believe your belongings have been relocated without your consent, move on to step 2.

2. Contact Law Enforcement

The police should always be one of the first numbers you call after a burglary. While it’s unlikely they’ll make any reasonable attempt to recover your stolen items, just filing a formal complaint will lift years of stress off your shoulders. Just like sending thoughts and prayers in the wake of a mass tragedy, it’s incredibly freeing to relinquish your problems (personal or systemic) to the universe for someone else to deal with. If you have a description of the suspect, be sure to provide it to the officers. They’ll be much more likely to pursue punitive justice if your burglar is wanted for other crimes or is Black.

3. Get a Craigslist

While stolen merchandise is typically fenced and resold via various black markets or the dark web, particularly inexperienced or unintelligent criminals might try selling your stuff on an open marketplace like eBay, Craigslist, tazbar, WagglePop, pets.com, or Gawker. For only a modest fee, purchasing a subscription to these services can provide you the opportunity to reclaim your belongings at a fair price, especially if you have a coupon code. With our sponsor Honey, you can rest easy knowing you’re getting the best available price for every piece of stolen merchandise you buy back, no matter where you shop.

4. Let Go of Attachments

No matter what you hear from others, you don’t NEED to form a lifelong friendship with the person who jacked your shit. You don’t NEED to let them play bass in your band, even though you already have a bassist. You don’t NEED to invite them to your family Christmas or backyard barbecue. You don’t NEED to make things physical if you’re not comfortable with that. You don’t NEED to take them on that trip to Paris and pay for their extra checked luggage, which on second glance looks awfully familiar. Giving them a key to your apartment might feel like the right thing to do, but it could be a bad idea in the long term. Our resident fraud expert, Guy Fandango, is the perfect illustration of the kind of ill-advised attachments you can form with your former burglar.

5. File an Insurance Claim

Replacing all the stuff you lost in a break-in can be expensive. Luckily, we have insurance for that. You’ll want to find a busy intersection with poor visibility. The best locations will have a yellow light duration of three seconds or shorter. Before running out into the road, do a quick check to make sure the driver doesn’t have a dashcam, as this will make it much easier for the claims adjuster to establish fault. Aim for mild sprains or clean breaks to the bones in your legs or nondominant arm; avoid hands and feet, which have many small bones that tend to heal poorly. Avoid injuries to the head or abdomen at all costs, unless your financial needs are truly dire. If this kind of scheme is too much of a risk for you to stomach, insurance can help you recoup your losses in other, more direct ways. Consider arson or staging the death of a loved one.

6. Secure Your Property Against Future Break-Ins

You’d be surprised how many people fail to take even the most basic precautions to secure their homes after a break-in. Dynamic and etiological analysis shows that burglars will invariably return to the site of a previous break-in, like salmon during spawning season. While there is no way to prevent home intruders from re-entering your property once it’s been established as a nesting site, you can take measures to make it as inhospitable as possible. Try smearing predator feces over your valuables; burglars have a highly attuned sense of smell and will naturally avoid parts of your home that smell like law enforcement. You can also try sprinkling capsaicin (chili pepper extract) on your doorknobs, windows, TV remote, and other high-touch surfaces. Play high-frequency tones from your stereo speakers, if you could afford to replace them. Finally, bear traps make an excellent home intruder deterrent. Just don’t forget where you put them, or your next nocturnal bathroom visit could turn into a wallet-draining trip to the ER!

You shouldn’t have to choose between the safety of your family and the health of your investments. As a final tip, if your breaking-and-entering involves a kidnapping component and the kidnappers are demanding a ransom in exchange for the safe return of your loved one(s), simply tell them “I refuse to play by your rules.” Most kidnappers are just regular people who have never been told “no.”

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