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There is a common trope which has been going round for years that there are a series of chalk-marks used by burglars to indicate possible targets.

There have been multiple news stories about this over the years, which I believe make this notable

The questions is, has there ever been a verified case of a burglar admitting to the use of these codes? Either in actually marking the location of a property themselves, or seeing the code already marked and using that information to choose the target of a burglary?

Many news stories quote the "Surrey Police" in the UK. But even a search on their website brings back nothing significant.

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    Those remind me of Hobo signs (symbols) – ChrisW Oct 15 '14 at 12:09
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    It's not clear to me why a burglar who has cased a house would want to share his information with competitors and/or law enforcement. – Nate Eldredge Oct 16 '14 at 17:37
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    Is there a sign for "armed and dangerous" that I could draw on my home? – gnasher729 Oct 17 '14 at 15:28
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    Something similar to these Hobo signs is also known in Germany (possibly whole Europe) as Gaunerzinken. In that case @NateEldredge the population using those codes was highly mobile so there wasn't really competition. Steal, mark the house, run to another town. – user45891 Oct 18 '14 at 12:13
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    This is just an anecdote so it's only a comment, but some friends of mine in London were repeatedly burgled without knowing (their lock could be forced without trace), and the police told them that burglars had left such a mark. However, unlike your claims: a) these marks changed frequently and the police struggled to keep up with them, b) they were unique to individual gangs and areas, not universal (for obvious reasons!), c) they were subtle, not obvious things that could wash away like chalk (I think theirs was a brick outside the driveway and a scratch in the woodwork near the weak lock) – user56reinstatemonica8 Mar 9 '16 at 11:11
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This is not actually an answer to the question you asked. However, I hope you'll find it useful anyway, since it's quite hard to prove a negative.

According to this BBC News article "Da Pinchi codes' not for burglars, say police," the chalk signs referenced in the articles you linked to are used for innocent purposes. The source seems to be this "South Worcestershire Cops" Facebook post*, which says that the symbols are used by utility companies, and has a helpful (if unfortunately low-resolution) picture:

enter image description here

Another linked BBC News article, "What do those squiggles on the pavement actually mean?," has some more examples of utility road markings. It confirms the water pipe symbol (an "X") and the lamp-post symbol (a circle with an "X" in it), and describes similar symbols for cables. Unfortunately, I haven't found any independent confirmation of the meaning of the "kerb repair required," "potential movement of manhole/cover," and "drop kerb to be installed here" signs.

There is also a relevant Snopes article, "Grab and Go Code Chalkers", which gives the verdict "Unproven".


*The "South Worcestershire Cops" Facebook account seems to be legitimate, as the West Mercia Police have an officially verified Facebook account which links to one of its posts.

Other news sources that covered this story:

Other sources about road repair/utility street markings:


Some comments that appeared beneath the question that I thought were particularly relevant or interesting:

  • Those remind me of Hobo signs (symbols)ChrisW Oct 15 '14 at 12:09

  • It's not clear to me why a burglar who has cased a house would want to share his information with competitors and/or law enforcement. – Nate Eldredge Oct 16 '14 at 17:37

  • This is just an anecdote so it's only a comment, but some friends of mine in London were repeatedly burgled without knowing (their lock could be forced without trace), and the police told them that burglars had left such a mark. However, unlike your claims: a) these marks changed frequently and the police struggled to keep up with them, b) they were unique to individual gangs and areas, not universal (for obvious reasons!), c) they were subtle, not obvious things that could wash away like chalk (I think theirs was a brick outside the driveway and a scratch in the woodwork near the weak lock) – user568458 Mar 9 '16 at 11:11

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    I kept seeing USA marked on the side of the street and thought it was someone being patriotic, later found out it meant Underground Sewer Access. – tcrosley Mar 9 '16 at 0:14
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    @tcrosley puts a whole new perspective on chants of "USA! USA! USA!" – user56reinstatemonica8 Mar 9 '16 at 11:18
  • We use the two on the top right a few days before aerial photography flights to help rectify them. Usually in chalk. – If you do not know- just GIS Jun 27 '16 at 1:50
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loosly translating from this Swedish article "Pär Cederholm (local police chief) also tells us that he has seen gang marking apartments that they then break into. "

and here a Swedish insurance company says that "It may happen that they mark the places where they find something interesting." in relation the motor boat motors theft.

Is this good proof ? to me it looks more anecdotal, and many times it strongly suffers from confirmation biased.

My neighbors (true story) saw a small pile of stones in their yard, others saw a stone lying under the car's wheel, they removed it and whala nothing was stolen.

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