Every 16.4 seconds, a burglary occurs in the United States,1 and they're the property crime people worry most about. A burglary is traumatizing for the victims, but it can also be frightening for your entire neighborhood. If a burglary occurs in your neighborhood, here are the first three steps you should take.
What To Do When a Burglary Occurs in Your Neighborhood
1. Lend a hand to your neighbors
In the aftermath of a burglary, your neighbors are likely scared and upset. Their property has possibly been damaged and their sense of security and safety has been violated. You can help your neighbors cope by reminding them they are not alone in the recovery process.
- Offer to help them clean up and repair any damages.
- If their property has been severely damaged, you and your other neighbors can consider hosting a neighborhood fundraiser and donating the funds to the family to help pay for home repairs and replacements.
- You may also consider welcoming them into your home and letting them stay in a spare bedroom until their home is repaired or they feel more at ease.
- Keep in frequent contact. While it may sound small, sometimes the best thing you can do is simply remind the family you are there for them, whatever their needs.
- Consider implementing community safety initiatives, such as a neighborhood watch program. By looking out for one another’s homes, keeping your eye out for suspicious activity, and checking in on a neighbor’s home when they are on vacation, you and your neighbors may feel more secure.
2. Talk with your family
If you have children, talk with them about how they are feeling in reaction to the burglary. They may be worried about a burglary happening to their own home, or they may wonder why burglaries happen in the first place. As a family, have an open conversation about the burglary that occurred and let your children share their reactions and any concerns they have.
You can also take this time to remind your children about safety basics, including never opening the door to strangers and using the buddy system. Consider establishing a neighborhood “safe house” where your children can go if they feel unsafe when home alone. Make sure this home is within easy walking distance and that the family is one with which your children are comfortable.
3. Update the security of your home
After a neighborhood burglary, you may not feel as safe in your own home. SafeWise advisory group member Ben Stickle, Ph.D., notes that burglars often return to the area of the first crime.
"Did you know that after a burglary, there is a high likelihood that another will occur in the same neighborhood within a few weeks2 and that you may be a repeat victim?3 That's why any burglaries or burglary attempts must be reported to both police and the community," Stickle says. "In fact, notifying your neighbors may even reduce the likelihood of other burglaries.4"
He recommends taking precautions as soon as you hear about a nearby burglary. Some ways to take action:
- Leave your TV or radio on when you are away from the house.
- Turn on lights inside and turn on your porch light more.
- Plant attractive but thorny bushes near ground-floor windows.
- Update your door locks to deadbolts with the highest security ratings. If any exterior locks have started to rust or are outdated, update them to stronger and more modern options.
- Secure your door. Make sure the frames and hinges are strong.
- Create a practice of locking all your windows. “We easily forget to re-lock the windows after use," Stickle says. "Establishing a routine check, especially before leaving for a few days, helps find unsecured windows."
- If you don’t already have a home security system in place, start exploring available options within your budget. Whether you want a traditional system, DIY and budget options, or systems with smart home integration, there's something at every price point.
While a neighborhood burglary is frightening, don’t let fear consume your community. By supporting your neighbors, ensuring your family knows the basics of safety, and installing home security measures, you can help protect your home.
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- FBI, “2018 Crime Clock Statistics,” 2018. Accessed September 17, 2020.
- Laura Hoppe and Manne Gerell, European Journal of Criminology, "Near-Repeat Burglary Patterns in Malmö: Stability and Change Over Time," January 9, 2018. Accessed September 17, 2020.
- Michael Townsley, Ross Homel, and Janet Chaseling, Australian & New Zealand Journal of Criminology, "Repeat Burglary Victimisation: Spatial and Temporal Patterns," April 1, 2000. Accessed September 17, 2020.
- Elizabeth Groff and Travis Taniguchi, Journal of Experimental Criminology, "Using Citizen Notification to Interrupt Near-Repeat Residential Burglary Patterns," January 26, 2019. Accessed September 17, 2020.