On the last day of my trip to Deauville, I received a call from my building superintendent at around 10 am. She sounded frantic as she said, “Your door is damaged. I think you’ve been robbed.”
Cambriolage – the word I had become familiar with as I have several friends who have had the pleasure of having their apartments robbed in Paris. While I was certainly surprised, I was not shocked. The petty crime of robbing Parisians while they are on vacation is all too common, and yet nothing seems to be done about it.
Although I had planned to spend the day exploring Trouville-sur-Mer, I instead ran to the train station to change my 5pm ticket for earlier in the day. My small yet sufficient Paris apartment had been broken into and I had to return and deal with the situation.
If you ever find yourself in this position (I hope you don’t), here is what to do.
Call the Police from the Scene of the Crime
I called the police (17) straight away but because I was located in Deauville, I was connected to the police in Normandy – not Paris. My superintendent tried to call the police in Paris on my behalf, but they would not take the complaint as she was not the actual resident. So there was nothing for me to do except wait until I arrived in Paris.
While on the train, I made a list of all my important belongings in the apartment that I believed someone might take. Thankfully I had my laptop, bank cards, and my cell phone with me on the trip.
After arriving in Paris around 4pm, I went straight to my apartment to look at the damage. Sure enough, the lock to my door was missing and the wood around it had been badly damaged.
My only hope was that perhaps the thieves had not succeeded in actually opening the door, but my superintendent told me that other robbers had done the same thing in past months and managed to get inside.
My superintendent advised me not to touch anything so the police could take fingerprints, so we stood outside my door as we called the police to report the apartment break-in.
Open the Door
Surprisingly, on the phone, the police told us we had to open the door ourselves before they would dispatch an officer. The reason was in case the door could not be opened and we had to call a handyman or locksmith which would take additional time. They didn’t want the policemen to be waiting around during this process.
The robbers had destroyed the wood around the lock and pushed it through to the other side of the door before closing the door itself. So we had to use a tool to get the door to open. Luckily, my superintendent knew how to do this as three other apartments in the building had been robbed last year and we all have the same doors.
Once we got the door open, it was sadly very obvious that the robbers had made their way inside my apartment.
My entire studio apartment was totally turned upside down. The place was ransacked from top to bottom. Boxes, dirty laundry, paperwork, clothing, shoes – everything was strewn about across my bed and on the floor.
I couldn’t touch anything just yet in case there were fingerprints, but I was reassured when I noticed some of the items on my “valuable” list were still there.
Call the Police to Report the Crime
Now that the door was open, we called the police at number 17. After asking me some simple questions about the state of my apartment and whether I lived there myself, they said a team of fingerprinters would be there in about an hour. I was informed they would be dressed normally but I could ask for their Police ID if I wanted to. The dispatch informed me that they were also going to call from a blocked number to take down my address and building codes to get inside.
Call Your Renter’s Insurance Company
While you’re waiting for the police to arrive, it’s a good idea to call your insurance company. Renter’s insurance is a legal requirement in France, however, you are not required to have insurance that covers break-ins, only internal incidents like water damage. I knew I was on the most basic, legal minimum plan with my insurance company (Luko) but I called them anyway to be sure that this type of damage wouldn’t be covered. Sure enough, it wasn’t!
Call the Landlord if You Are Renting
If you are renting your apartment, the next step would be to call your landlord or the owner of your apartment and inform them of the break-in. You can tell him/her that you’ve already called your insurance company and what they’re willing to cover.
Keep in mind, according to French law, you are not responsible for fixing any damages caused by a break-in – the owner is. The only exception is if you were negligent and left a window open which allowed the thief to enter.
A team of two policemen – a man and a woman – arrived at my apartment about one hour later to take fingerprints. They were very kind. Unfortunately, they did not find any fingerprints, which I assumed as much. Criminals know this is done so they wear gloves.
They gave me some standard advice to call my insurance and have the locks replaced by a company they recommend, which would apply if my insurance covered apartment break-ins!
Assess What Was Taken
Now comes the fun part. Once the fingerprinting police had left, I started picking up the pieces of my belongings. To my surprise, almost nothing on the list of what I believed was valuable was taken!
My designer coats, passport, professional Fujifilm camera, and old iPhones were still there, even if they had been tossed around.
The only two things that were missing were my cheap (fake or plated gold) jewelry, and all the spare cash (euros and dollars) I had in my apartment – including all the loose change and coins I used for buying croissants. It was so bizarre.
It’s clear that the robbers did not want to be weighed down with heavy objects when robbing my apartment. They wanted small valuables that could be easily stuffed in their pocket!
I made a list of what was taken so I could formally report this to the police later.
Replace the Locks
Since I did not have any insurance coverage for a break-in, I decided to replace the locks myself. This can be very expensive, but luckily my superintendent recommended a locksmith she knew personally around the corner and he came right away to replace my locks for 250€.
The wood around the lock was still missing but at least I had a lock in place – not that it would do much anyway.
My landlord offered to pay for this as it’s legally his responsibility.
File a Formal Report with the Paris Police
Since it was already evening, I decided to go to sleep for the night and report the crime the next day. The police station gets very busy in the afternoon and evening, so your best bet is to go first thing the following morning to your local Paris Commissariat if you don’t want to waste too much time.
My initial report was already on file since I had called to report my apartment burglary the previous day. This helped speed up the process.
I arrived at the Commissariat at around 10:30am. After going through a security check similar to the airport, I was told to sit in the waiting room. I waited for approximately one hour before I was called to speak with a police officer.
He found my initial report and confirmed some of the details. Since I was away on vacation for 2 nights, I wasn’t sure if the break-in happened during the day or night, or which day it happened exactly.
My deposition took around 15 minutes, and the officer emailed me a PDF copy of my formal complaint which I needed for insurance purposes.
Check if Your Landlord’s Insurance Covers the Damage
Thankfully nothing inside my apartment was damaged. The only work that needed to be done was the actual wood door which needed to be replaced. My landlord assured me that his owner’s insurance would cover the damage. I just needed to send him the formal police report and the refusal of my rental insurance company to cover the robbery damage.
Try to Sleep Easy at Night
The hardest part of my Paris apartment robbery was not the fact that my space had been entered or that my belongings were taken. It was the fact that I now know how utterly useless our doors are and how anyone who has the willpower can enter if they want to!
Thankfully, many of my friends reassured me that the vast majority of robbers do not want to harm the people inside. They are looking for people who are on vacation so that they can take their time robbing them without any interactions.
It’s not a coincidence that I was robbed while on vacation during one of the rare Parisian heat waves. The robbers knew many people would be out of town and they, unfortunately, picked me.
It’s still hard to sleep at night knowing my door is damaged and anyone could break in, but realizing that most of these crimes are not violent helped me sleep a little easier at night.
I learned many lessons during this ordeal. In a way, I am thankful that this burglary happened as it really opened my eyes to the false sense of security we have in our homes.
Even though I knew people who had been robbed, I didn’t think it would happen to me.
This was a mistake, obviously.
My theory is that one of the food delivery guys targeted me. I started using Deliveroo and UberEats in the winter and I’m fairly certain one of them decided I would be a good target to rob. None of my neighbors were robbed, and they were also on vacation.
It’s still so odd though because I rarely wear jewelry and when I do it’s cheap jewelry! But I guess they assumed I had expensive jewelry hidden somewhere in the apartment as lots of Parisian women do.
Too bad for them!