Chalk markings put Co Down dog owners on alert
Reports of chalk symbols on houses prompt fears of pets being targeted
Dog owners in Co Down are on their guard after rumours that would-be thieves are marking homes as potential targets to steal their pets.
Residents have reported chalk marks on fences and walls outside homes, prompting fears they are being singled out as attractive to burglars.
The marks have spurred heated discussions on social media, as many believe those leaving the scores are on the hunt for dogs which could be used for fighting.
PSNI Inspector Lesley Badger said: "There have been six reports in total, mainly in Dromore with a couple in Banbridge, and they came in at different times on Sunday and Saturday night. One of the homes that they received a report from was an owner with pedigree dogs." A suspicious van spotted driving in the Dromore area has fuelled fears of criminal activity, but to date nothing has been stolen.
Ms Badger said: "It's a possibility that they were marking out vulnerable properties but at this time we have no reports of criminal activity of burglaries or thefts."
A graphic shared on social media claimed to explain the symbols. One symbol is said to mean the house has a burglar alarm, while a capital D with a line through it is deemed too risky to target. A crossed out circle apparently denotes that a home has nothing worth stealing, but flower petals indicate a wealthy residence.
Worryingly, three lines joined together are said to denote a house with a vulnerable female inside, while a large X highlights a good target.
Police in Banbridge say they still have not got to the bottom of the markings. "It may be linked to opportunist criminals," said Inspector Badger. "We are asking people to photograph the markings first before rubbing them off.
"There were also reports of men acting suspiciously in white vans and we are asking people to be on the alert and to note the reg number, any livery detail, or if it has a roof rack or anything like that."
In Cambridgeshire last year, dogs worth more than £2,000 were stolen amid reports their homes had been chalked. But police chiefs there were keen to stamp out the markings rumours, claiming it was an urban myth, and there have been no links between dog thefts and the marks.