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The Secret Burglar Code – How To Stay Vigilant

Burglar Damaging uPVC Door

Homeowners in Norfolk have recently been warned about mysterious chalk markings which are appearing on walls and gates outside of residential properties in the area. Although other police forces around the UK have warned the public about these markings, many people in the area were unaware of their meaning and what steps they should take to protect their home.

The chalk markings make up part of a secret code which is used by pairs or teams of criminals who wish to target houses. Usually, the home is ‘cased’ by a potential intruder for some time before they decide to gain entry and steal items. Any information they need to pass on to other criminals can be given through the various symbols used. Markings include meanings such as a warning that the home is alarmed, that the occupants are afraid or that the property has been burgled previously. This is what you should look out for:

Alarmed House


To warn others about the house having an alarm, and therefore giving them the information they need to avoid or overcome this, is depicted with this symbol. Other variants of this show the symbol with rounded bottom corners or with a box around it.

Alarmed House Symbol

Previously Burgled


To show that a house has already been burgled (and therefore may not have valuables present or will have extra security measures in place as a result) a rather complex symbol is used. In all variations seen there are lines, either diagonal or vertical on the left side of the symbol. Dots are also used and there may be more than the one which is depicted here.

Previously Burgled Symbol

Good Target


A home which is deemed to be a good target, i.e. a home with valuables present and which does not have comprehensive security will be marked with this symbol. Variants on this include crosses without the surrounding box or a cross within a box which does not extend all the way to the corners.

Good Target Symbol

Vulnerable Occupant


In homes with a vulnerable occupant, a symbol which looks a bit like an open book is used. This may also be drawn with a box around it, but is more commonly seen without, like our illustration here. This symbol can show others that there’s an occupant inside who is unlikely to fight back – a chilling thought.

Vulnerable Occupant Symbol

Occupant Is Afraid


These overlapping shapes show that the occupant is afraid, and may be a warning for thieves that they have installed extra security measures, or perhaps shows them where they can use threatening behaviour as leverage. This symbol also has variants where a box is drawn around the whole shape, or where they are more square-shaped than rectangle.

Occupant Afraid Symbol

Nothing Worth Stealing


A circle with a cross through it (which may be drawn on its own or may also have a square drawn around it) may look like a garment care instruction, but to thieves it means that there is nothing worth stealing in that particular home. The presence of this symbol means that it’s likely the corresponding home has already been peered into, or perhaps the thieves have information about the occupant, who may not fit in with their hopes for a lucrative home intrusion.

Nothing to Steal Symbol

Too Risky


A shape which looks a bit like a capital D, perhaps with a small line or dot in the middle, tells a potential intruder that breaking into the home is too risky. This may be for a number of reasons, such as multiple male occupants, guard dogs, occupants who work for security firms or the armed forces, or due to the general security of the home. This symbol may also be shown with a square drawn around it.

Too Risky Symbol



A drawing which depicts 5 dots or circles, whether they’re set apart from each other or touching in order to create a flower-like symbol, means that the occupants in the home are wealthy. This information may be gleaned from watching the day-to-day activities of the occupants. They may drive a nice car, have a decent job and have valuables on view, all of which could point towards them having some wealth. Thieves may be paying attention to where you shop, what you throw away and the types of pets you have in order to come to their conclusions about whether the home is worth the risk of breaking into or not.

Wealthy Symbol

If you see markings like this appearing in chalk around properties in your neighbourhood, then you should inform the police immediately on their non-emergency number. Making sure your home security is up to scratch is the only way to stop opportunistic thieves in their tracks – if you would like a home security survey, then please get in touch using our Contact Form.