What to Do (and Not Do) if You're Home During a Robbery
A police officer shares life-saving tips on the best ways to avoid a violent confrontation
Some 3.7 million home robberies happen in the United States every year, according to a 2010 report from the Department of Justice. And about 28 percent of the time, someone is home. It’s a scary scenario. If it happened to you, how would you handle it? Hide? Grab a baseball bat and confront the intruder?
To find out what you should do, SafeBee talked to Police Lt. Kevin Mahoney of Methuen, Massachusetts, who has been on the police force for more than a decade.
“There’s no set of rules you can use during this situation,” says Mahoney. “Every time is different and will require different actions.” He offers this advice.
Call 911. “The sooner you call the police the better. You want the police to get there as soon as possible,” says Mahoney. If you don’t feel safe enough to talk because you don’t want the intruder to hear you, Mahoney says to call 911 anwayand hit buttons on the phone so the 911 operator hears the beeps. Operators are trained to know how to handle this type of situation. For example, she can ask you yes or no questions and instruct you to hit a button if the answer is yes or do nothing if the answer is no. Know that even if you say nothing to the 911 operator, police will still come to your house. Just remember that if you call from a cellphone, the geolocation function needs to be turned on so police know where to go.
Stay calm. This might seem impossible, but it could save your life. Mahoney says if you keep a level head, you will be able make the best decision on what to do.
Get out of the house if you can. As soon as you do, go to a neighbor’s house for safety, and call 911 if you haven’t already. Don’t try to grab personal belongings before escaping. This is a time waster, Mahoney says. “Items can be replaced. The only thing worth worrying about is your safety.”
Barricade yourself. If you can’t get out of the house, Mahoney says to “get as far away from the person who entered your home as possible. For example, if the person is downstairs and you are upstairs, lock yourself in a bathroom or closet. If you can bring a cellphone with you, that would be ideal,” he says. Don’t leave this area until the police arrive.
If the intruder enters your hiding place, you want to avoid a violent encounter if at all possible. "Try to run away if you can," Mahoney says. "Even when you are hiding, always be thinking of your next step on where to escape to."
Yell. “If you have to barricade yourself, you could yell and say you are calling for the police,” Mahoney says. “Most breaking-and-enterings are just about stealing goods. Most [robbers] don’t want to get in a physical confrontation, so just letting them know somebody is there and they are calling the police is enough for them to leave.” He says this is particularly a good idea if they are about to enter the area you are hiding in.
Confront the intruder only as a last resort. "Most breaking-and-enterings are non-violent," Mahoney says. "You don't want to put yourself in a even more dangerous situation if you don't need to." Only seven percent of household burglaries end up with a household member experiencing some sort of assault or "violent victimization" according to the Department of Justice.
Mahoney advises confronting someone physically only if he is about to attack you or you feel threatened. "If you do need to use physical force, then go for areas like the neck, knees or face. That will knock them out faster. As soon as there is an opportunity to leave, leave." He suggests using something in the room as a weapon as a way to attack.
Related: 6 Things Not to Do in an Emergency