An Apartment Dweller’s Guide to Dealing with Break-Ins

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Apartment break-ins can make you feel vulnerable and confused. Knowing how to deal with a break-in before one happens, just in case the worst comes to pass, can help you take quick and decisive action.

First Make Sure It’s Safe

If when you approach your apartment, you immediately notice that the door has been literally broken open, do not enter the apartment. Call the police and have the police first enter the apartment, in case the thieves are still there. Some break-ins are less obvious, if the thieves are able to use a key, a lock-pick or a window for entryway. If you enter the apartment and notice everything in disarray, leave immediately and call the police. You should wait in a public location, perhaps with a trusted neighbor or landlord.

If You’re Home During the Break-In, Get Out

If you’re in your apartment during break-ins, you should leave as quietly as possible. If you can exit through the door, do so, and go to a trusted neighbor for help. If you must leave through a window and it’s safe to do so, you should. Do not make a noise or use a flashlight, which will alert the thief that you’re there. There’s a chance that the thief could harm you if you surprise him. If you can’t get out, barricade or lock yourself in a room or closet. Call the police immediately.

Once the Place Is Clear, Make a Report

You should only return to the apartment once the police have given you the all clear. Your first task will be to give a report of what you know about the break-in, including whether or not you were present, what time you were last in the apartment if you were not present, and what, if anything, you noticed about the thief or thieves. The police may ask you to report what items were stolen at this time. You may be able to notice large items missing, such as electronics and large valuables, but you will need to do a more thorough check later.

Taking Inventory

The easiest way to know for sure what’s been taken during break-ins is to keep a detailed list of all of your valuables and their approximate worth on your computer, in a bank vault or a safe. (However, if you keep your computer or your safe in your apartment, it may be stolen.) The first few days after break-ins, the apartment tenants should try to put together a list of missing items and the values of the items. You should also include descriptions of the items and give the list to the police so they can complete their police report.

Submitting the List and Report to Insurance

If you have insurance on your apartment—which may be included with your rent or may be your own individual plan—you should submit copies of the police report and your list of stolen items to your rental insurance agency. Your insurance company can review the incident and may reimburse you with the cash value of the stolen items. If you were not covered by insurance, there’s nothing much you can do to get the value of your stolen items back, other than hope the police recover your stolen property.

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