Has your home been marked?
Purported symbols include an X, which indicates a good target, and a line of circles, which indicates a wealthy occupant. An open door indicates a vulnerable occupant, while a “D” indicates high risk.
Several social media users left comments under the lists to indicate that they’d seen similar signs.
“Outside my house just now is a x with a circle round it,” wrote a woman named Gemma McPike. “My hubby said it was the Virgin Media guys yesterday. I’ve just called them and they know nothing about it. So I’ve called 101 and reported it. However the x with circle round it means “nothing worth stealing” so hopefully nothing to worry about.”
Several sites have suggested that the symbols are a hoax.
That’s hardly comforting, however, when the symbols actually show up on your door frame.
“This sounds lame, but I’m pretty OCD, so I always touch certain places on my door,” Sarah said. “When we got back from our walk, I noticed the symbols on the right side of my door frame. One looked like a dollar sign and the other was an X.”
The symbols were small, but clearly discernable
“I’m not sure when they appeared, but I can say with confidence it was no more than three days from when I noticed them.”
The complex had suffered several recent vehicle break-ins, and Sarah’s boyfriend was one of the victims, so she took the signs seriously.
“When I first saw the symbols, my belly started hurting. I can’t explain why, but it was literally a gut reaction,” she said. “I tried not to panic, but after speaking to my apartment complex manager and hearing about the other thefts, that’s when I truly started worrying.”
Sarah’s markings don’t match up with the list issued by UK police departments.
Do codes make sense for criminals?
In Europe, these “tramp signs” took a more insidious tone. From the 17th to the 19th century, vagabonds used a similar set of symbols to mark properties, and those symbols gradually evolved to accommodate criminal activity. By the 20th century, investigators understood most of the code. According to one investigator’s handbook, tramps had signs for “theft worthwhile” and “careful: a cop lives here.”
Gradually, the code died out. After all, symbols are much less effective when law enforcement understands them. Modern travelers occasionally create signs to indicate the presence of a strong Wi-Fi signal, but that’s about all you’ll find.
In the modern age, criminals often prefer to use cell phones to discuss their crimes, since going electronic limits their risks substantially. Still, tramp signs occasionally pop up, and it stands to reason that some criminals would attempt to mark properties.
All of that said, if you find a strange symbol on your property, report it immediately…
“There’s no single magic bullet to securing your home,” Stanton told ABC. “It’s all about layering. You should have several layers of protection that keep your home safe.”
Stanton recommends checking all entry points, including those in garages, attics, and basements, and outfitting every potential entrance not only with highly rated locks, but with motion detection devices. Modern security systems can provide mobile notifications, which can give homeowners tremendous peace of mind
Criminals are unlikely to target a home if they believe that it’s occupied, so Stanton also recommends timed lights, smartphone technology, and other tricks to aid in deterrence. And while dogs can help to scare away criminals, they’re not ideal as a first line of defense unless they’ve been specifically trained for the task.