After a Car Break-In: 5 Keys to Recovery - FindLaw Blotter
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After a Car Break-In: 5 Keys to Recovery

A car break-in can be devastating. But taking certain steps after such a crime occurs can be key to potentially catching the criminals and getting compensation.

Many car break-ins occur when items are left in plain view, tempting criminals to bust out a window and run off with your valuables. If so, you'll want to take quick action, especially if you want your valuables returned.

Though every situation is different, here are five potential steps you can take if your car has been broken into:

  1. Take photos. Once you're past the initial shock of finding your car broken into, snap some photos of the damage on your smartphone. You may need these photos if you file an insurance claim.

  2. Call the police. You should file a police report immediately, especially if items have been stolen and you want them recovered. A police report is also key to filing an insurance claim, and may alert investigators to a potential crime wave. Remember your police report or case number, and the name of the officer who took down the report.

  3. Take an inventory. The inventory will help you assess what you lost. Have a look at the place where you keep your registration papers. Does it look out of sorts to you? Are there any papers missing? What about any jewelry or electronic devices you may have tried to hide in your armrest? Make sure your missing inventory goes into the police report.

  4. Follow up with police, if necessary. If something particularly important was stolen from your car, you may want to check back with police after filing the report. Otherwise, a nonviolent crime like a car break-in may not be a top priority for investigators, especially in larger cities with more pressing public safety concerns.

  5. Take extra home security precautions, if necessary. Many people leave items with identifying information in their cars -- for example, a letter or bill with your address on it. If a criminal finds that, and finds your hidden garage door opener or spare keys as well, you'll definitely want to tell police when you make your report. You'll also want to consider making your home more secure, such as by changing your locks.

Car break-ins are a hassle to deal with, and can be unnerving. But keeping your cool and following through with these first steps can help get you compensation for the break-in, and help get you back on the road.

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