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What to do (and not to do) after a home burglary in France

The number of domestic burglaries is growing at a considerable pace with around 645 thefts reported to French police daily. Find out what to do if you are the victim of a crime at your residence or second home

More than 90% of home burglaries in 2019 took place in primary residences, and 44,000 in second homes. Pic: Lucky Business / Shutterstock

It’s every homeowner or tenant's nightmare: you arrive at your property to find the back door has been forced open and a cautious entry into the house reveals upended drawers and their contents spewed out over the floor. 

Unfortunately, this scenario happens far too frequently in France - with an estimated 645 burglaries taking place every day, according to Le Figaro.

How many home burglaries are reported in France annually?

Indeed, the latest figures released by the Ministry of the Interior showed that 601,000 thefts were reported in 2019. More than 90% of crimes took place in primary residences, with 44,000 thefts being recorded in second homes. 

These figures have increased considerably year on year over the last decade, with 386,000 thefts and attempted thefts reported in 2008, for example. Figures for burglaries in England and Wales over the same period show a considerable decline. In 2002/2003 there were 890,099 burglaries whilst last year that number had fallen to 267, 931, according to 

Overall robberies in the EU are falling, with figures decreasing by 11 % overall from 2016 to 2019. 

When and where does property theft commonly take place?

The latest statistics released by France’s Ministry of the Interior also revealed that almost one in three burglaries take place during the summer (29%). But be aware, thieves are active all year round, with 12% of thefts being recorded last December. 

Surprisingly, more thefts in France occur in built-up areas than they do in the countryside, with people living in cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants having the highest burglary rate per person. 

What are burglars looking for?

Figures show that between 2016 and 2019, 45% of burglary victims reported a theft of jewelry. Meanwhile, 24% reported that money had been stolen and one in five victims said that thieves had taken computer equipment, game consoles, and cameras. 

7 essential things you must do following a burglary 

1. Call the Police

The sooner you call the police, the greater chance that the burglar might be caught. The correct number for this service is 17 or 112. The number 17 will put you directly through to the appropriate emergency police service nearest to your home, which could be either the Police Nationale if you live in an urban area, or the Gendarmerie Nationale if you live rurally. Meanwhile, 112 is a European emergency services number for fire and rescue, police, and ambulance services.

2. Do not touch anything

It’s important that you do not touch anything which could be used as forensic evidence against the burglars. For example, there might be vital fingerprints or footprints on your doors and floors, so however messed up your house looks, do not be tempted to clean up until the police have arrived.

3. File a police report

Once the police have come to your property you will be able to file a complaint at which point the police investigation can begin. Once you have filed the complaint you will be given a receipt, which will be needed to make your insurance claim.

To save time, victims can log a complaint online here.

Once this has been completed, you must go to your nearest police station to sign the document and pick up the receipt. This can not be done online.

4. Notify the bank

If your bank cards, checkbook, or other means of payment have been stolen you are advised to cancel them at your bank. Regardless of which company you bank with, you can call the number 0 892 705 705, which offers a service to immediately stop payment on your bank cards, or 0 892 68 32 08 which stops payment on cheques.

5. Secure your home

Once the police have been, make sure you fix any broken windows, doors, or locks so that opportune thieves can not return. In order to do this, you might need to get hold of a locksmith (un serrurier), of which you will find many local companies on the internet. To make sure that you enlist the help of a trustworthy locksmith, it is advisable to check with your friends, neighbours, or even your insurance company, who will have a list of reputable companies to contact.

6. Call your insurers within 2 days

Most insurance policies stipulate in their general conditions that "the theft must be declared at the latest within two working days following the date on which the insured became aware of the loss, any late declaration, except in the case of fortuitous events or force majeure, may result in a forfeiture of coverage."

According to the government’s website, this declaration should be made in a letter that is sent by recorded delivery, with acknowledgment of receipt.

Within the declaration, you must list all the objects that were stolen or damaged, and provide their value. This will be used to evaluate how much money you receive. If you do not agree with the expert’s evaluation, it is possible to enlist an expert of your choice to carry out a counter-assessment.

The insurers will also need to see a copy of the initial crime report filed to the police.

7. Inform your landlord or property management agent

If you live in a rented property or own a flat in a building owned and managed by a property agent, you must let the owner know that you have been the victim of a burglary. They will need to inform their own insurer and may be able to make a claim.

Glossary of terms 

Un courrier avec accusé de réception (RAR) = a registered letter with acknowledgment of receipt
Police Nationale = police service for urban areas
Gendarmerie Nationale = polie service for rural areas
Un récépissé de dépôt de plainte = a receipt given after you have filed a complaint
Un serrurier = locksmith
Un syndic = property management agency
Police d’assurance = insurance policy
Cambriolage = burglary
Une déclaration sinistre = insurance claim

Related articles 

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Resident or second-home owner in France?
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