Belfast Telegraph

PSNI move to dispel 'chalk markings' myth after mounting concern

PSNI Ballymena issued an a chart to try and dispel the myths of chalk markings.
PSNI Ballymena issued an a chart to try and dispel the myths of chalk markings.
Andrew Madden

By Andrew Madden

In recent years, an urban legend about chalk markings being left on homes has been doing the rounds on social media and Northern Ireland police say they are being asked more and more about the markings.

According to the myth, criminals leave various markings on the outside of unsuspecting homeowners' properties marking them out for burglary.

Some versions of the story warn the markings indicate households with pets, which criminals can then abduct and sell for profit.

As recounted in various news stories, and statements from police forces in England, variations of these chalk symbols can indicate "vulnerable occupant", "alarmed house" or "previously burgled".

Police in Co Antrim, however, have said the truth may be far more innocent.

In a post on social media, PSNI Ballymena said they have seen an increase in the number of calls from residents asking about the markings and moved to dispel the myth surrounding them.

"The urban legends suggest [the markings] are left by criminals to identify potential targets for burglary," they wrote.

"While we can’t explain every marking found on a specific house or indeed the proximity of the house marked to a public area, it’s important to remember that facts can be distorted, lost or even embellished with the retelling of each incident.

More and more of you have been asking us about the stories of chalk markings being left on peoples homes. The urban...

Posted by PSNI Ballymena on Thursday, January 10, 2019

"Most of us have heard of these markings appearing on the house of a friend of a friend or the cousin of your hairdresser's next door neighbour.

"How many of us actually know the person it’s alleged to have happened to or saw clear recognisable pictures of the house and marking?

"Sometimes in our albeit well intentioned haste to warn others of a potential threat, we don’t always consider the validity and source of the information we are sharing."

PSNI Ballymena also shared an image of the "supposed meaning" of various chalk symbols, according to the urban legend, and their actual meaning - as the markings are often used by roads and maintenance workers for various innocent reasons.

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