Arriving Home, Did Someone Break In?
Most people come and go from their residences without incident. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice released a report that estimates on average, 3.7 million households are burglarized every year 2003 to 2007. Arriving home to find a burglar is not something we want to think about, but statistically, being confronted by a burglar is a realistic possibility.
It is good mindset to consider what actions you might take if, upon arriving home, you discover a criminal violated your privacy, property and potentially, your personal safety. Be prepared before facing such an event.
Surprising a burglar when arriving home may escalate into other crimes. A young woman arrived home after work. Upon entering, she discovered two burglars. One pointed a gun her, then stole her purse. The two then fled. In another case, a man arrived home in the afternoon and interrupted a burglar. The surprised burglar beat the homeowner severely.
There are a number of things to consider in preparation for the event of confronting a criminal who has entered and is still inside upon your arrival home.
Ten Things to Consider When You Arrive Home
1. Assess if things appear normal or out of the ordinary while driving up or walking to your residence on foot. For example, have lights been turned on inside that were not previously left on? Is a light moving; possibly from a flashlight? Is the garage door open or a side gate ajar? Was a trashcan or large object moved possibly to gain access through a window? Are items discarded or strewn on the ground? Are unfamiliar vehicles parked on your street? Is someone close to your residence waiting in a parked car? Is someone loitering who might be a look out for a burglar inside? Also, quickly evaluate surrounding neighbors’ properties for abnormalities and possible indicators of burglary.
2. NEVER enter your home if something does not feel right. If the door is slightly ajar or things appear to have been moved, quickly and quietly back away and get to a safe location like a neighbor’s house or your vehicle. The burglar may still be inside. Immediately call the police, ensure your local police department number is in your contact cell phone list. Call even if you feel that your house is untidy. Safety is more important than any potential embarrassment about your current housekeeping.
If you receive notification that your alarm was activated, call the police. Police response may be categorized as a lower priority if no one is at home. Never exaggerate or falsify the situation with dispatch. If you arrive home before police, park a safe distance from your residence or go your neighbor’s house to wait for police.
Upon arrival, patrol officers will likely talk with you before entering your home and request your key or permission to enter. They will verify whether you have roommates, firearms or animals within the house. If signs of unauthorized entry are observed, police may dispatch a K9 unit and enter your home with a police dog trained to search. They need to ensure that potential interference from your dogs, cats or other animals does not occur. They will then “clear” your residence before you enter.
3. Be patient for police to arrive. If you become impatient do not return to your house. You can call dispatch and ask for an estimated time or find out what else is going on. Depending on your jurisdiction, geographical area, law enforcement staffing, and current demands for service, police response time varies.
In many burglary cases, the home owner does not realize they have been burglarized. They may be in the house for a while. In cases where the burglar is gone, an after the fact report of burglary will receive lower priority. In some jurisdictions, victims are required go into the police station in person to file a report. For faster police response, do not exaggerate or falsify the situation.
Generally, a 9-1-1 call involving the possibility of catching the burglar elevates the police dispatch to higher priority. In these cases, law enforcement officers typically respond with more urgency and additional officers. This requires them to drive faster and utilize more personnel, which jeopardizes their safety and other citizens’ well-being. So “do not cry wolf”, because in this age of digital recording, your address and name may be flagged as an “exaggerated” previous call, thus increasing future response time.
4. Do NOT allow your boyfriend, husband, family member or friend to investigate a potential burglary. It is not worth the possibility of encountering and startling a criminal with violent tendencies. Additionally, there may be more than one intruder inside. Remind him that some criminals willingly use violence to achieve their objectives and/or escape.
Good Samaritans have been severely injured and killed when clearing a house for a burglar. If the intruder hides, he can get the jump on him before attacking. Burglars may have a firearm; possibly yours. There are cases where off-duty police officers checked a residence for their neighbor, and were killed by the burglar. Allow uniformed police officers to handle burglary situations, because they are properly trained and prepared.
5. Do NOT rely on warnings to ensure no one is inside. Pre-entry warnings may provide indications of burglary, but do not ensure that the burglar has vacated. Pre-warning indicators include the doorbell distraction and money lure.
- The Doorbell Distraction is not necessary. A crime prevention recommendation is to ring the doorbell before putting the key in the lock. The thinking is to warn an intruder of your presence so he will flee. He may flee, unless his way out is the door you are entering. The burglar is more likely to elevate his anxiety and adrenaline. He may think another burglar is verifying if no one is home, the police or a neighbor is at the door. Worse, ringing the doorbell also gives him notice to hide and wait, especially if he is contemplating rape.
- The money lure is an unnecessary crime prevention recommendation. The false presumption, by placing money next to the door is an indicator someone has been or is inside now believing a burglar, or worse, will pocket the money. Upon returning home, if the money is still there does not mean your home has not been burglarized or you are alone. The burglar may have entered or exited through back or side door, window and is unaware money is in plain sight. Unless the burglar entered or exited by that door, the money may still be there voiding this test-indicator.
- Other reasons the money has not been taken may involve poor lighting, limited time the intruder had spent inside, or his primary goal was to search the bedroom and just didn’t see it. If you choose this burglary indicator, do not place the money in view of any windows or when you might answer the door. Overall, this is not recommended because it may become a temptation for burglary.
- In cases of security alarm activation or possible intrusion, alarm companies may text or call your cell phone. Some burglars know how to bypass particular alarms. However, most alarm notifications are “false alarms” for a variety of reasons from the air conditioner/heating, animals, family member setting it off, or the system may have malfunctioned. Consequently, reliability of an alarm system as a warning tool is not always 100% accurate. If cameras are installed inside your home, you may have the ability to remotely check for intruders, which provide authentication a crime is in progress. You can relay this information to the police who can simultaneously be dispatched.
6. Assess for indicators of burglary, which can be overt, subtle, or sensory.
- Outside overt indicators of forced entry include a damaged door, frame or lock, and/or a broken window. When going inside, you may notice drawers and cabinets left wide open, or ransacking where drawers are dumped out and items tossed about or broken as a burglar tosses and turns your property literally upside down. Sometimes burglars will vandalize their victim’s property.
- Subtle indicators include arriving home to an unlocked or ajar door, lights on that were not left on, an activation code displayed on the alarm’s digital display screen, doors open that are kept closed, disorderly or missing items, partially opened cabinets and drawers, and evidence of food or alcohol consumption.
- Sensory indicators involve the obvious, such as interior noises, glimpses of movement or shadow. Unusual odor indicates spilled contents or that someone with poor hygiene entered. Smell of defecation may exist if the burglar relieved himself and was afraid that a flushing toilet would make an alerting noise. A sensory indicator that is frightening is the uneasy feeling of nefarious presence.
7. Do not touch anything to protect against contamination of trace evidence, in order for a forensic lab technician to determine what they will attempt to brush for fingerprints, or DNA. Most burglaries will not attempt to gather DNA evidence unless there is a higher crime classification or other investigative circumstances involved.
8. Stalked victims should be more cautious when approaching and entering their residence. In addition to other residence related stalking behaviors, some stalkers burglarize the homes of their intended victims in order to seek additional information about their target.
Rapists sometimes stalk their victims by engaging in voyeuristic (window peeping) activities. They break and enter into their victims’ homes to snoop through victim’s personal belongings. They may steal small personal items like pictures, jewelry, or underwear. Some will establish a method for quiet accessibility building up to their intended rape.
9. If you do surprise a burglar, allow him to escape or flee, then call the police. When victims, especially men attempt to confront, capture or punish a burglar, it may quickly lead to a dangerous escalation of violence. Even if you are armed with a gun, the burglar too, may have a gun. The burglar may also have the help of an accomplice inside or one on the outside of the residence acting as a lookout who may aid him while you are pointing the gun at him.
- Most burglars flee when their activity is compromised. Do not impede his escape path, because he may knock you down or attack out of fear. If you startle a burglar, step aside and loudly shout, “Get out!” or “Leave now!” or focus on the word “Outside!” Creating the illusion that others are with you also works. “John, hurry – call the police!” The goal is to give the burglar impetus to quickly leave without attacking you.
- Burglars who are also stalkers, robbers, or rapists “break and enter” in order to lie in wait for victims to return home. This type of intruder is familiar with his victim’s lifestyle, because he has been watching her or is acquainted with someone who is familiar with his victim. He is likely to know when his victim will be home alone. Situational variables, victims’ and assailants’ skills, and the assailant’s typology dictate self-defense options. Model Mugging courses teach knowledge and combative skill sets that increase women’s available options in these types of situations.
- If a burglar does not rapidly depart, then you must mentally prepare to fight or flee. If you discover an intruder while you are near a door, immediately flee. To attract help and assistance, as you run, consider yelling, “Fire!”
- An intruder may approach you, so he can escape past you. He might also get in proximity to you in order rob you of jewelry, a purse, wallet, or the keys to your vehicle. Give up the property, but if his intention is to harm you, due to the confined areas of home, running may or may not be possible. Acquiescence or fighting back becomes viable options.
10. When entering your home, avoid having a complacent or “unconscious” mindset. Do not disregard warning indicators or your intuition. You are more vulnerable to unwanted surprise if you are in a distracted state of mind, because your thoughts are focused on other things rather than sensing danger or potential options.
Discovering that someone broke into your home is disturbing. Your privacy is violated. Irreplaceable, sentimental items or other property may be stolen and financial hardship inflicted. An upsetting fear that an intruder might be hiding inside or that he may return. Facing an intruder is terrifying, but that fear can be the catalyst to transmute into the anger that may save your life!
The Model Mugging Basic course provides practical experience about how to thwart or fight a single unarmed attacker.
The Advanced course addresses options that can be deployed if an assailant is armed or has an accomplice. Model Mugging facilitates opportunities to apply Adrenaline Stress Training in a process described best as martial science. The course helps students learn to transform fear into anger and then channel that energy for effective fighting.
Coming Home to Burglar Inside Your Home
- Assess if things appear normal or out of the ordinary while driving up to or approaching your residence on foot.
- NEVER enter your home if something does not feel right.
- Be patient for police to arrive.
- Do NOT allow your boyfriend, husband, or others investigate a potential burglary.
- Do NOT rely on warnings to ensure no one is inside.
- Assess for indicators of burglary.
- Do not tough anything to protect against contamination of trace evidence.
- Stalked victims should be extremely cautious.
- If you do surprise a burglar, allow him to escape.
- When entering your home, avoid having a complacent or “unconscious” mindset.
Other considerations when walking to your home or apartment:
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