10 Lessons Learned from a Burglary

Earlier this week, two beloved family members were burglarized. The good news is that they were not home when the break-in occurred and are consequently safe. The bad news, of course, is that someone illegally entered their house, went through their things, trashed their bedroom, and stole from them. They have lost items, some of which can be replaced, most of which is gone for good. What they really lost, however, is that feeling of safety. Their house no longer fees like a home.

I’ve been thinking about how we can learn something from this. I have the luxury to do this because my family is safe–something I cannot say too many times (thank you, thank you, thank you).
So, here’s my 10 lessons learned from their burglary, or my list of things to do to prepare yourself against theft…
1. Password protect your electronics. From your laptop to your iPhone, take 5 minutes (even less if you are tech savvy), to add a password prompt. This was save you a lot of headaches should your electronics go missing.
2. Log out. We have password prompts on our laptop, but I just close the computer when I am done. I don’t log out. Shame on me. Remember when I lost my laptop? If I had logged out before it went missing, I would not have been so freaked out, as my personal information, email, and social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and the like) would have been behind that extra layer of protection.
3. Back up. When my family members’ laptop was stolen during the recent break-in, one of the things they didn’t have to worry about was the loss of years of digital photos and electronic files. They had regularly backed them up to off-site storage. Locating affordable back up options is fairly easy; I found more than 40,000 options on Google when I searched “backup software.”
4. Review your insurance policies. If you’re renting, get renters insurance! (Nearly 10 million items come up on Google when you search for renters insurance!) It’s not that expensive and can make a huge difference in your life if your place is broken into. If you own your home, are you insured enough? Do you need an umbrella policy? Do you need riders for special collectibles or expensive jewelry? Talk to your insurance agent for more information.
5. Know what you have. My burglarized family members are in the process of moving, so they had a pretty good idea of what they had and where things were located in their house. Do most of us have that same knowledge? Preparing an inventory of our possessions is a critical step in responding to a crises–whether it’s a theft, flood, fire, or some other calamity. So, take a few hours to photograph items,  write down serial numbers, and list what your own. Keep the record in a safe place (perhaps even off-site; see #7), and once a year, update it. Hopefully, that annual update is the only time you’ll look at it. (FYI: this is now on my to do list.)
6. Secure the perimeter. Walk around your house. Do all of the doors lock securely? Do the doors have deadbolts? Are any windows broken? Do you have any windows that could benefit from security bars? A basement window is how the burglar (or burglars) got into my family’s house. If bars had been installed, perhaps he or she would have been deterred. Perhaps not. Regardless, take care of whatever is worrisome now, so you don’t regret it later.
7. Get a safety deposit box. Have any items of great monetary or sentimental value? It might be worth getting a safety deposit box at a local bank. The cost can be under $100 per year. From wedding negatives to Great Aunt Gertrude’s emerald earrings, a safety deposit box offers security for items you don’t use a lot but would be lost without.
8. Hide and seek. Going on vacation? Don’t leave expensive or precious items out and about. Hide them in your house–just remember where you put them or tell a loved one where they are so you can find them when you return home. (When I mentioned this idea to a co-worker, she noted her mother hid her pearls before a long vacation–but forgot where they were stashed. She came across them 10 years later when going through a bag of old clothes to donate.)
9. Having work done? If you are doing home renovations (like my family members did), it’s a good idea to keep a list of who has been in your house. These people might be great sources of information in the event of a break-in. Did they see a car parked outside your house, just watching? Did they witness any suspicious behavior? Jot down who was working in your house when.
10. Know your neighbors. For this one, I always think of my Mom. She has an incredible community on her street. She and her neighbors keep an eye on each others’ homes, water one another’s plants, and take in mail when someone is on vacation. These types of connections can help prevent thefts, and can make us feel–and be–safer.
According to the FBI, more than 9 million property crimes occurred in the US in 2010. Therefore, being mindful of the security of our homes is a must. Many ideas can be found online, such as  here, here, and here.

In the end, it’s just stuff, and my family is fine. For that, we are very, very, very grateful. Now, our hope is that, from this violation, we can all be better prepared–and aware.