I returned home from track practice Tuesday night and knew instantly something was amiss. All the drawers and cabinets on the hutch were ajar. The wooden box that contains the silver my grandma gave me was sitting on the floor. Babs and Taz ran up, begging for dinner. At least they were still okay. Pandora and Torch (and Slider, Bluebell, and Rocky) were still happily resting in their stalls. I proceeded through the apartment. All the drawers and doors to my closets, cabinets, and furniture were ajar, and all the lights were on. All the contents inside had been rifled through. The screens to the office window had been removed and put inside my closet. The front door was unlocked. I started leafing through my items, quickly realizing there were many things missing--jewelry, a camera, stereo, electronics, credit cards....that's when it dawned on me that I had been robbed.
Shaking, I called the police. They asked if the intruder was still in the apartment. I shuddered. I hadn't even thought of that. Luckily, they had probably left a long time ago. Another woman in the complex knocked on the door an hour later, clearly distraught. She had been robbed too. Apparently, it had occurred that afternoon. The police came and very thoroughly went through the "crime scene" and dusted for fingerprints. That stuff makes a mess! He got several off the screens and windows. The robbers had climbed in through the window (even though I live on the 2nd floor) and left through the front door. By the time the officer was through, it was almost 1 am. I was exhausted. He had commented that I seemed very composed. I'm tired and want to go to bed, officer! I thought. Unfortunately, I'm still exhausted because apparently, burglary is not good for one's REM sleep cycles. But I'm okay. And in the big scheme of things, this is just a small bump in the road. However it has taught me some valuable steps we can all take to protect ourselves.
How to Protect Yourself from Robbery:
1. Have renter's or home-owners insurance.
It's cheap and will save your ass. Do it. It's a no brainer.
2. Document and photograph everything you own.
Know serial numbers, model numbers, and values. Keep all receipts.
3. Keep very valuable documents in a safe deposit box at the bank.
I had a fire-proof safe in the closet. Not good enough. If I had my stuff in a safe deposit box, I would still have my social security card.
4. Scope out your apartment or home.
Look for easy access points--roof overhangs, openings onto the roof, weak locks, etc.
5. Check your locks.
Make sure the front doors all lock with a deadbolt. Consider a 2nd lock. Keep track of all your keys (including spares--the robbers got my spares).
6. Close up and lock everything when you leave.
This includes windows, folks. Set your alarm, if you have one. Leave blinds closed and lights on.
7. Have an escape route.
In the unfortunate situation that you are home when a thief enters, plan out what you will do. Always keep your cell phone with you. Consider locking your bedroom door at night. If you are on the 2nd floor, know where the fire escape is located.
What to do in the event of a robbery:
1. As soon as you realize you've been robbed, leave the premises. Do not enter until you are certain the intruder(s) has left.
2. Call the police immediately.
3. Change your locks, even if you aren't sure they have your keys.
Better to be safe than sorry.
4. Report all your accounts, credit cards, and bank cards as stolen.
Put a 90-day fraud alert out on your accounts using TransUnion, Equifax, or Experian to protect yourself from identity theft. Also, order a monthly credit report to keep track of any unauthorized loans or accounts opened in your name. Assume they have all this information and will use it.
5. File a claim with your insurance company.
You will need to make an itemized list of everything stolen.
6. Check with your neighbors.
Report the incident to your office, if you rent. Check with all your neighbors to see if they saw anything suspicious. Also, this will alert them for future incidents.