The Role of the Police – Before, During, and After a Home Invasion

The Role of the Police – Before, During, and After a Home Invasion

Calling the police in a desperate or frightening situation is a no-brainer. I wouldn’t waste a second reaching for the phone if I thought someone was breaking into my house – would you?

But the police can actually offer you a lot of assistance both before and after a home invasion as well.

Here’s what the police are doing to help before, during after a home invasion. 

Before a home invasion

The old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is just as valid in law enforcement as anywhere else. It’s always best to stop a home invasion before it happens.

Crime education

Many police departments make public education an important component of their crime-fighting strategy, so you can turn to them for advice on preventing a home invasion.

Some of this education comes in the form of sheriff’s office websites with tips and video clips on burglary prevention that can be easily accessed online, as in this resource from the San Jose Police Department.

Education is also provided by many police departments through outreach initiatives such as participation in public forums and the running of school-based programs.

Neighbourhood watch

When I was growing up, I remember seeing the distinctive eye logo associated with a local neighbourhood watch peeking out at me from some people’s windows, though I didn’t know what it meant at the time.

Today I know that a neighbourhood watch is where members of a community organize to stay vigilant against criminal activity, and they are often supported by the local police, who will provide useful guidelines and even training.

To get involved, contact your own local police department to see if they sponsor neighbourhood watch programs.

In the case of the police department in Marietta, Georgia, they even created their very own improved program called COPS (Community Outreach Police Services).

Patrolling the area

Another important “pre-burglary” police activity is patrolling neighbourhoods and investigating suspicious activity, whether observed by the officers themselves or reported by others.

Following up on these reports can result in identifying thieves in the planning stages of a home invasion.

During a home invasion

The police response

During the course of a home invasion, the police might be called by a neighbour, an alarm system dispatcher, or by the homeowners themselves.

According to contributor Daniel Westlake, standard police procedure in these cases is to:

  • approach the house quietly
  • create a perimeter
  • examine the property for signs of forced entry
  • call the property owner if possible

Confronting a burglar

If the burglar is still in the home at the time that the police officer answers the call (which is rare), that’s when the police’s role is at its most dangerous.

The officer will usually knock on the front door first and ask the person inside to identify themselves.

As writer Tiffany Payton notes in an article on the Home Security Matters website, it is often just a relative or neighbour inside the house.

But if the response is suspicious, the officer will draw a weapon and attempt to apprehend the suspect, giving chase if necessary.

After a home invasion

Even if a burglary has already taken place when you arrive home, it’s important to call the police so that they can take a report.

According to a New Zealand Ministry of Justice survey, this process mostly involves the officer taking notes, offering security advice, and taking fingerprints.

The investigation

After the initial visit, the police begin their investigation. This may involve activities such as:

  • speaking to neighbours to see if they saw or heard anything
  • checking fingerprints with their database to see if a prior offender comes up
  • interviewing potential suspects.

In some cases, the police department may use other tools at their disposal, such as communicating with local media, who will then report details about the suspect (e.g. description of the burglar’s features and clothing, security footage).

Once the burglar has been identified – and the unfortunate truth is that they often never are – then the police’s job is to arrest the individual and notify the victim.

Returning stolen goods

The police’s job is not just about finding the burglar, but also locating the stuff they stole.

While they may not always locate it in conjunction with the investigation of your burglary, they do sometimes find stolen items while investigating other crimes.

Some departments, like that of the Kent Police, even list found items along with pictures right on their website in order to help connect people to their stolen merchandise.


As you can see, the police have a crucial role in all phases of a burglary.

Before a burglary even occurs, the police assist in:

  • Public education, including tips on preventing burglaries
  • Supporting neighbourhood watches
  • Patrolling neighbourhoods

During a burglary, the police:

  • Approach and examine the home
  • Confront the suspected intruder
  • Apprehend the person if suspected of burglary

After a burglary has been committed, the police:

  • Take a report
  • Investigate
  • Alert local media about the suspect
  • Arrest the suspect if located
  • Try to recover stolen items

Hopefully you’ll never have to call the police, but it’s smart to memorize or keep the phone number handy just in case.

And be sure to take advantage of the educational tips offered by the police on home security to reduce the chances that you’ll ever need to report a burglary in the first place.