A few years ago, Penn Yan, NY reported one of the most expensive vandalism ever recorded in the history of the Finger Lakes region. Authorities in the region asked for assistance from the public in identifying a culprit who shattered a chapel’s antique stained-glass window worth more than $25,000. The sought-after individual had thrown a large rock through the stained-glass window in an attempt to access the building.
That and many other cases of vandalism are becoming more frequent in the United States. According to Statista.com, in 2020 alone, people reported more than 4.6 million property-related crimes, among them vandalism. This crime takes various forms. It can be as simple as illegally writing or painting a wall or involve more serious offenses like destroying property. It is often done for various reasons, including conveying a message, as an act of rebellion, or just for the thrill.
No matter the reason, it is never fun to discover that your house has been vandalized. Whether it is a broken window or graffiti painted on the wall of your home, it can be a jarring experience to return to a vandalized home. If you are a victim of house vandalism, there are a few things you should know first before acting.
What You Should Know About House Vandalism
It Is Intentional: Although sometimes one may act without thinking, there is always a reason why people commit vandalism. It could be to send a message, stake revenge, express frustration, or make money. Nevertheless, accidents should not be classified as vandalism. For instance, if your neighbor is home cleaning or lawn mowing, and suddenly a stone launches from the mower and hits your window, this should be considered an accident. It will only be vandalism if they throw the stone intentionally.
Vandalism Can Result in Expensive Repairs and Fines: The Federal Bureau of Investigation reports that property crime costs U.S. citizens billions of dollars annually. In big cities, cases of vandalism pervade more areas than any other cases. Due to the enormous costs lost to vandalism, it is often seen as one of the most expensive crimes troubling cities.
Vandalism Can Attract Serious Penalties: The penalties for house vandalism include jail time, a fine, probation, or restitution. The bigger the damage, the greater the punishment. To determine the severity of the charges, the prosecutors calculate the extent of the damage and file charges based on the figures. This can include the cost of the damage and repairs.
The Property Must Belong to Someone Else: Section 594 of the Penal Code clearly states that someone else must own the property for a crime to be reported as vandalism. Damaging your property cannot be considered vandalism; therefore, no one can sue or charge you with the crime. The property must belong to someone else, and the act of vandalism must be against their wishes.
What to Do if Your Home Has Been Vandalized
Now that you know what house vandalism constitutes, what can you do if you become a victim? Below are crucial steps you can take.
Try to Remain Calm
If your home is vandalized, you will likely experience various negative emotions. You may feel violated, get angry, afraid, or worse, traumatized. Rather than act irrationally and try to find out who committed the act unconventionally, it would help if you first take a deep breath and stay calm. It is vital to remember that what is lost can be replaced and what is damaged can be repaired.
Once you have calmed down, find out if there was anyone in your home hurt. Shattered windows, for instance, can be dangerous if people were nearby during the crime. If anyone is hurt, quickly seek medical assistance before deciding to take the next step. While property can be replaced later, medical emergencies can be a matter of life and death and require you to act immediately.
Report the Incident
In Finger Lakes, NY, it is illegal for someone to obliterate, deface, remove, or otherwise harm your property. If you are a victim of house vandalism, you should call the police before doing anything else and file a report. Like many other regions across the U.S., you can call 911 to report the incident to the police. You can also report to local authorities such as the Auburn Police Department, Cayuga County Sheriff, and New York State Police through their hotline numbers.
Reporting the crime to the police helps you figure out who the perpetrator was and how to best proceed. Sometimes the culprit may still be inside the house, and it may be unsafe for you to go in. In such cases, it would be best to wait for the police before getting inside. This will allow the police to capture the criminal and get first-hand evidence of what happened.
Besides the authorities, you should also consider reporting the matter to your insurance company. Many insurance providers will act faster and work with the police or fire and water damage restoration companies if the house vandalism involves arson or water damage. This will assist them in verifying the crime and determining the value and extent of the damage. Nevertheless, refrain from touching anything until the police arrive.
It is important not to interfere with evidence when your house has been vandalized, as this may hinder investigations. However, it can be helpful to take pictures showing the damages and send them to the police. If you are in a position to take photographs of the culprit from a safe distance, it would be even better. The pictures can go a long way in providing evidence that will help capture the criminal and solve the case.
Photographs or video recordings can aid you in filing your insurance claim. It can also be useful to retain evidence if you quickly need to act to prevent further property damage. For instance, vandalism that involves arson or water damage may require immediate intervention. Taking a quick photo or video before acting to stop further damage can be a great way to provide evidence of what happened.
Make a List of Missing and Damaged Items
You may not know the extent of the damage caused by vandalism until you take account of what is missing or destroyed. Making a list of what is missing after house vandalism is important to help you identify what you should ask for in terms of compensation. Additionally, this can help the police trace these missing items to find the people involved in the crime. For instance, electronic devices such as phones have trackers that police can track to identify the location of the criminals.
However, the most important reason why you should create a list of the missing items is so that you can file an insurance claim. This helps provide evidence to support your insurance claim and helps you know how much you should expect in compensation. Moreover, you or your insurance provider can use the list to work with repair services such as residential water damage restoration services to help in the restitution process.
In making the list of what is missing, it is often wise to work with a home inspection company. These professionals are experienced enough to know what spots are mostly targeted during vandalism and the tools used to commit the act. They will also help you identify what losses are covered by insurance providers and which are not.
Present a Claim for Insurance
Most house vandalism crimes are covered by a typical homeowners insurance policy. That implies you can submit a claim for compensation or repairs if your house or property is vandalized. Nevertheless, it is important to review your homeowner’s policy to understand what the insurance provider covers before making a claim. This is because some insurance providers give the actual cash value of items while some only cover the replacement cost.
Once you have reviewed your insurance policy, call the insurance provider and alert them of the vandalism incident. Provide them with the police reference number for the crime and discuss what should be done to restore the situation to normalcy. Also, provide them with the list of damaged or missing items you prepared, as this is important to help them estimate the cost and extent of the damage. However, before issuing any compensation, remember that the insurer may need to send a professional to examine the damage to your property.
Suing the Offender
House vandalism is a felony in most jurisdictions; thus, you can decide to sue the vandal in a criminal court. You may sue the perpetrator because you want justice for the crime or to receive restitution for the damage done. In cases where your homeowners’ insurance does not cover part of what was vandalized, you may need to sue the vandal in order to get the money to restore or replace what is damaged.
You have the right to ask for an equal amount of what was lost or damaged during a vandalism incident. However, you must prove that the amount is equivalent to the property’s value before the damage. However, you can also demand compensation if the crime leads to secondary damage in other areas. For instance, if vandalism damages your water system, you are allowed to ask to be paid the amount required for water restoration.
Repair the Damage
As a victim of home vandalism, you should not dwell too much on the incident but find a way to move on. Talk with home restoration services in the Finger Lakes region to determine how much is needed for the repair and how quickly it can be done. Meanwhile, you can start by changing house locks and replacing shattered windows. Cover the broken window with plywood or other material to keep the weather out. If your roof has been damaged by fire during vandalism, you should contact expert roofers to repair or install a new roof that is more durable and fire resistant.
Prevent Future Cases of Vandalism
If it happened once, it could happen again. Therefore, you must be well prepared if it happens again. You can deter vandals from entering your home by installing security cameras, keeping the property well lit, and fencing it. You may also want to alert your neighborhood and community of house vandalism incidences and encourage them to be vigilant.
It is also important to have measures to minimize damage should future vandalism occur. One way to do this is to work with a home siding service to make it more difficult for vandals to access or damage your property. They make your home more resistant to damage and help manage safety hazards by performing activities such as dry rot and mildew removal. The growth of these rogue plants may make it more difficult to conduct repair and are thus better off removed.
It is never fun to come home and discover that your home has been vandalized. It is even worse when you cannot figure out who did it or why. However, if you live in the Finger Lakes region and are a victim of house vandalism, you should report the incident to the police, claim for insurance, and repair the damages. You must also protect yourself from future vandalism by securing your home and monitoring your property. If you need assistance with a vandalism incident, call us today to guide you on what to do.