Don’t Go In: Arriving Home to Forced Entry

I hope it never happens to anyone, but reality says someone reading this post will arrive home to find signs that someone broke into their house.

forced entry

I know I'll get some hate mail for this post, but that's fine; it wouldn't be the first time. I get it; you work hard for your stuff and don't want anyone taking it. And I'll agree the people breaking into homes are committing a criminal act and should be held accountable. However, I'm not demanding you respond a certain way. Instead, asking you to consider the information and perspective in the post.

Okay, so here it is;

if you return home and find signs that someone broke into or is inside your unoccupied home, there are zero reasons to go inside

When a loved one is inside the home, the situation is much different.

However, that IS NOT what the scope of this article is addressing.

Go inside to investigate?

Most of the news stories we find are of home invasions. But we also see reports of people returning to an unoccupied home to find evidence of forced entry.

Yes, sometimes people go inside to ‘investigate.' Investigate seems easier than saying – search the home to potentially get into an unnecessary physical altercation, possibly leading to injury or death for you or any unwelcome visitor(s).

Being armed with your everyday carry (EDC) handgun, you may feel inclined to head inside. However, while a handgun is a terrific tool, and if you had no choice but to go in, you would want to be armed, the gun doesn't ensure you aren't hurt or killed. Take, for instance, this story where an unarmed home invasion suspect disarmed the homeowner and used that gun to kill him.

searching home for burglar

People often tell me, ‘I know my house better than the burglar, so he is at a disadvantage.'

Really? It doesn't take a tactical guru with blueprints of the home to find a blind corner or another spot from which to ambush you. It's just nearly impossible to safely clear a house by yourself, even if it is your own.

You don't know how many people are inside, whether they are armed or their intentions. Burglars rarely operate by themselves. More than one person usually heads inside because they know there is a possibility that someone may be inside or arrive home. They want the advantage of numbers to overwhelm the homeowner(s).

They may also deploy a lookout to alert them someone has come home. If the suspects choose to stay and fight, they can ambush you and have a distinct advantage.

What can you do?

The simplest and safest thing to do is get you and your family to a secure location where you can call the police. Factors like the time of day, how far away a neighbor's house is, or law enforcement's response time to where you live will determine what is best. Next, consider a position of safety that provides a view of the house. Maybe this is inside a neighbor's house, across their porch, or down the street.

While heading to your house, officers consider how to deploy the resources they have. For example, as an officer responding to a hot prowl, I would usually check to see if our air support helicopter was available and how long it would take them to get overhead. I would also see if our K9 unit could head to the call as dogs are great at flushing out suspects. I would also coordinate with responding units so everyone didn't arrive at the house but rather get officers in the area to form a perimeter and search if the suspect ran.

The dispatcher may ask you questions, but it wouldn't hurt to offer the following information even if they don't ask. Some information that responding officers will find useful is:

  • which door(s)/window(s) were forced open
  • did you see or hear anyone inside the house
  • is anyone supposed to be at home
  • could someone legally be in the house
  • are there animals inside or outside the home
  • are there firearms inside the home that the suspects may have access to
  • are there are vehicles or people nearby that seem out of place
  • are there paths or trails nearby that lead to another location

If officers get this information before they arrive, they can respond more appropriately, given the particulars of your situation. But, again, by staying on the phone with dispatch, you can provide this helpful information without placing yourself or your family at any risk.

Reduce risk:

Sure, there are plenty of stories where a homeowner finds the door breached, goes inside to find nothing. And similarly, many armed homeowners have gone inside to find an intruder and successfully defend themselves or hold the person until law enforcement arrives.

It is great that we can find stories with positive outcomes.

However, even with the happy endings, the person exposed themself to unnecessary risk. Take this story, for instance. Thank God things ended well. But how easily could the outcome have turned out very different?forced entry

I don't know how much you value your life, but there isn't anything inside my home that is more valuable than my life. And if you need further perspective, consider what is more valuable to your family. Would they want you alive and unharmed, or any item inside your home a criminal can take?

There is another reason people may feel like heading inside to investigate.

There is a natural desire to catch the person. Maybe it's the feeling that if you catch them and they don't get away with it, they won't be back. It is true, burglars do sometimes target the same house if they obtain keys, know the owner's habits, or the security posture of the home remains weak.

But, unfortunately, just because someone gets arrested for burglary doesn't mean they don't do it anymore. So next time one of these burglars gets arrested, check out their prior offenses if they are listed. You're almost guaranteed to find arrests for prior burglaries and drug offenses.

And I'll just throw this in for your consideration because it's important. If somewhere in your calculus for going in is, ‘so the criminal leaves in a body bag,' you should seriously evaluate why you carry a firearm.

You don't have to justify criminal behavior to be against wanting to kill a burglar inside your home. That isn't justice.

Not every burglar who lives to see another day will change and become a positive member of society. Most probably won't. I've known my fair share who continue a criminal lifestyle until they die or end up committing a serious enough crime that they spend their lives in prison.

However, I also know a few who turned out to be law-abiding, loving parents who are grateful a homeowner didn't shoot them for breaking into their house.


Again the point is, don't unnecessarily risk your life to protect things. Let the police who have additional resources do the job they signed up to do.

The feeling of knowing someone broke into your home and was going through your belongings is unnerving, scary and can leave you feeling violated. It doesn't matter what kind of neighborhood we live in; there is the potential someone may want what is inside your home.

We put together a course called Complete Home Defense. In the DVD or online course, we present information to help you secure your home and your loved ones. We offer everything from physical security to responses to home invasions in the class.

Click Here to Learn More

complete home defense class

About Matthew Maruster

I follow my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ who is the eternal co-equal Son of God. I currently live in Columbus, Ohio with my wife and daughter. I served in the Marine Corps Infantry. I was a Staff Sergeant and served as a Platoon Sergeant during combat in Iraq. After I was a police officer at a municipal agency in San Diego County. I have a Bachelors's Degree in Criminal Justice from National University. MJ Maruster Defense.


  1. Donald Haygood on December 10, 2021 at 2:32 pm

    Excellent article and good advise

    • Roger Jerry on December 13, 2021 at 4:58 am

      If the police have to muster all those resources to respond to a burglary call (helicopter, back up, K9) it’s going to take them 30-45 minutes to deploy. Might as well skip the 911 call and just get a description and tag number on the getaway car (and photos of all your stuff going out the door.) The bad guys will be long gone before the badged orcs ever show their faces. I understand the author’s warning – you don’t want to clear your house alone. But in many jurisdictions the cops are going to take their sweet time responding to a property crime with no injuries.

      • Keith on December 13, 2021 at 2:47 pm

        Not disagreeing with anything you said, but keep in mind you don’t know if the bad guys are in the house or not. It’s best to let a trained tactical team make that determination, so calling 911 is the best option regardless of how long they take to get there.The guys trained to clear houses for a living will tell you the most dangerous thing you can do tactically is clear a house by yourself. As the article stated, the question each of us needs to ask and answer, “Is your stuff worth dying for?” The odds are against one man clearing the house. If there are multiple adversaries, those odds drop dramatically.

        Another question to consider, “If I go in and I’m fortunate enough or badass enough to win the gunfight, could an overzelous presecutor turn that act in to escalation and accuse you of wanting to kill the bad guy and charge you?” The answer is yes. Ask Rittenhouse.

        You can always find some cover with a view of the breeched entry way and wait for the bad guys to come out while you’re waiting for the police to arrive. If you do that, the police aren’t going to know who you are or why you are there and that’s going to distract them from the real problem…the possible intruders in your home.

  2. Alan on December 12, 2021 at 8:46 pm

    The author’s suggestions, observations make sense, a great deal of sense.

    • Charles Vlcek on December 13, 2021 at 3:18 am

      Excellent advise I carry 2;handguns and would not enter my home if I saw signs of forced entry

  3. Michael Davis on December 12, 2021 at 8:54 pm

    I am Law Enforcement. I am also a Veteran. All of my training, had me running towards the problem. I agree with your suggestion, that most people stay outside.

    People where I live, all know, that due to My training, I personally Don’t call 911. I am Not suggesting that people don’t report a break-in, the Public at large, Need to call for assistance.

    I my case, while I am assessing the situation, someone Will be calling 911. Unfortunately, where I live, Property Crimes, are a Category 5 call.

    Oh yeah, the needed assistance will eventually arrive; just not immediately. The Only Category 1 calls, are Medical or an Active Shooter situation.

  4. Chuck Allison on December 12, 2021 at 8:57 pm

    Great article

  5. Graham on December 12, 2021 at 9:28 pm

    I am a retired security professional. The same reasoning applies to a business office, as well as a commercial/industrial building. I always taught my clients that there is nothing in there that is worth getting injured or killed for.

  6. Tony Cox on December 13, 2021 at 6:35 am

    I have been trained on room entry and I also know that my head doesn’t rotate 360 degrees. It is impossible to concentrate on 5 different directions at once, thats why police officers don’t normally go in alone.

  7. Hendrik Kanavel on December 13, 2021 at 7:53 am

    It’s common sense. Stay out, make yourself and family safe, call 911, observe from a safe distance, keep 911 informed.
    I’m a retired LE and the last thing a responding officer wants to have a proprtty owner inside to worry about.

  8. Tony L on December 13, 2021 at 2:33 pm

    May not be to everyone’s liking, but, as I’ve commented on other articles before, having cameras in certain key places inside your house (living rooms, hallways, pretty much every room except bedrooms and bathrooms) can be very useful for self-defense intelligence gathering in the moment and evidence for your case.

  9. Gerald Mathei on December 13, 2021 at 3:15 pm

    I agree with you. The first thing that I learned after joining USCCA is that it is better to avoid an incident that can cause bodily harm. It is better, in ALL respects to move away from a problem until you are cornered. Then defend yourself. Going into a crime scene, your home is what it is, is not a good idea. If it takes the LEO two hours, so be it. You have not risked the life of someone who will miss you, especially if those someones are your children

  10. Mordecai on December 14, 2021 at 9:57 am

    Great article! I NEVER want to have to been in a situation where someone gets killed (especially me). However, when someone makes the choice to invade a home, they may end up leaving in a body bag. Tragic, yes, but I have no sympathy for them. All choices come with consequences.

  11. Mike on December 15, 2021 at 6:23 pm

    As much as I agree with the article, there’s a part of me that feels that anyone who enters a persons home to steal from them, gets what they deserve if the homeowner kills them. I don’t care if they could become a productive member of society. While they’re in my home they’re a criminal and nothing more.

  12. Mike on December 15, 2021 at 6:59 pm

    My last comment didn’t make it through moderation so we’ll see if this one does! I am a current law enforcement officer and though I agree with the premise of the article I find it a little insulting to be lectured to about the criminal who turns out to be a law abiding citizen. The author cannot know wether or not the criminal, turned parent, has actually ended his criminal career. Not being caught does not equate to not being a criminal. Nor does it account for all the victims he/she left in their wake. Any law enforcement officer will tell you that the criminal who is prosecuted for a crime is not likely a first time offender. Show me a criminal who is sorry about his crime and I’ll show you a criminal who was caught and is angling for a lighter sentence.

    • Matthew Maruster on December 15, 2021 at 8:36 pm

      Mike there wasn’t anything wrong with your other comment. It just takes us time to moderate each one.

  13. Ronnie on March 22, 2022 at 5:57 pm

    From what I’ve seen, heard, and experienced myself, break-in calls are not priority calls. That being said, I think if you stay level headed you should be able to assess and address the situation yourself. For me, I’ve had firearm training in the Boy Scouts and Marines, as well as hand to hand combat instruction. And, I’m also very good at keeping my cool in tense situations. If I come home to a possible B&E, I’m going in to investigate after I make an initial assessment and decide to call 911 and let them know I’m going in before actually doing so.

Leave a Comment