What to Do After a Break-In: Advice from a Locksmith
Few things feel worse than returning home to find someone has broken in. It’s a violation of both your privacy and your security. Most people who have been the victims of a break-in experience anxiety afterwards, much of which stems from the fear that it could happen again. So the best way to restore both your safety and your peace of mind is to make future break-in attempts as difficult as possible.
That’s where we come in. Max Locksmith Calgary has spent years providing consistent and dependable locksmithing for Calgary-area homes, and we’ve learned a thing or two along the way about how to keep out thieves and vandals. Discover the strategies we use to make things harder for unwanted “guests” and follow our tips to keep them out for good.
What to Do Immediately After a Break-In
The moment you notice someone has broken into your home, there are a few things you need to do:
Get to a Safe Place
Your first instinct might be to check your valuables, but remember: nothing is more valuable than your life, and home intruders can be dangerous. Before doing anything else, leave the premises and get to a safe distance. From there, you can contact the police.
Call the Police
First responders have the skills and training to check your home for danger, so make sure to contact them as soon as you’ve reached safety. Once the police have conducted a thorough sweep of your home, they’ll let you know it’s safe to re-enter the property.
Take Stock of Missing & Damaged Items
Once you’re back in your home, you can begin to catalog items that have been stolen or destroyed. Pay special attention to areas where the intruders might have gained access to your home, such as doors and windows—the locks on these fixtures will often be compromised and you’ll have to repair or replace them.
Recognizing Compromised Door or Window Locks After a Break-In
Thieves and vandals often try gaining access to a property in multiple ways before they find one that works—so even if one of your locks has obviously been mutilated beyond repair, that doesn’t mean the others are necessarily in good condition. The interlopers may have weakened other locks first, and these will also need to be serviced or replaced to reduce your vulnerability in the future.
How can you tell when a door or window lock has been damaged by an intruder? Here are a few of the easiest ways to recognize a compromised lock:
- Front door locks turn slowly: This can be a sign that burglars have attempted to weaken the lock with picks or other tools that leave few outward signs. If it is difficult to turn the key in the lock or you experience a delay in doing so, have it inspected by a locksmith for evidence of tampering.
- Inconsistent door latches: If you notice that a door latch doesn’t click into position consistently, it’s probably misaligned. The screws holding the latch in place may have been loosened, or the strike plate may have been moved. Repositioning the strike plate and tightening loose screws is easy enough to do on your own, but if you’re worried about getting it right, there’s no shame in calling a professional for help.
- Paint circles around lock fixtures: Locks aren’t meant to move around on the fixtures where they’ve been installed. If you notice chipped or worn paint around your lock, it could be a sign that someone has tried to move it with brute force. In these cases (which are common for window locks), the lock’s inner workings may be damaged and you should have it inspected.
- Bent deadbolts: This is another obvious sign that someone has tried to force their way past a lock. Bent deadbolts have lost some of their structural integrity and normally need to be replaced for best results.
- Shiny metal edges or nicks around keyholes: this can be a sign that burglars tried to “bump” a door or window lock by filing down the edges of a key to sharpen it and repeatedly pounding it into the keyhole. Bumped locks will likely have internal damage and need to be serviced or replaced.
Who Should You Call for Help (& When) After a Break-In?
Yes, you’ll want to dial 9-11 when you notice evidence of a break-in—but there are a few other folks you should call as well. Here’s a list, along with advice on when to phone them:
This should be your first call, made as soon as you get a safe distance away from your house. As we mentioned above, the police are the ones who will sweep your property and let you know it’s safe to return. They’ll also help you keep track of any missing property and look for clues that could point to the identity of the intruder(s).
Your Insurance Provider
As soon as your police report is filed and you’ve made a list of what’s missing, make sure to file a claim with your insurance company. Many providers require you to file your claim within 24 hours of a break-in, so you don’t want to delay this process.
Some companies may send an insurance adjuster to assess your home after a break-in. If this is the case, you may want to stay somewhere else until the assessment and avoid cleaning, since the adjuster will likely want to see exactly what damage was done during the break-in.
If any financial records are missing from your home, the culprit could be planning to steal your identity. Calling your bank in the aftermath of a break-in and alerting them to keep tabs on your accounts can prevent this—and can even lead to the intruders being caught in the attempt!
In the best interests of your community, do your neighbours a favour and let them know your home has been broken into. This can also benefit you, since most break-ins are committed by someone the victim knows, and another member of the community may have useful information about the crime.
What NOT to Do After a Break-In
Whatever you do after your home has been broken into, don’t leave your window and door locks unattended. They’ve already been compromised once, and now it’ll be even easier for the next home invader to get in.
Take the time to look for damage and have compromised locks serviced. For total peace of mind, it’s also not a bad idea to have a professional inspect all the locks in your home. While it may require a small investment to replace the locks and-resecure your home, the costs of leaving a defective lock on one of your doors or windows for another burglar to find can be much higher.
Use what you’ve learned above to watch for signs of a break-in and take appropriate action afterward. To have specific questions about your locks answered by a professional locksmith, contact us at any time for help.