Police decodes street language used by burglars to help fellow criminals target homes
Police are warning homeowners after decoding symbols used by burglars, which act as messages to highlight good theft targets and warn other criminals.
The secret symbols which are scrawled outside houses to help other thieves as a guide, may indicate that a home is wealthy, has already been burgled or may have nothing worth stealing.
Worryingly, they may also indicate if there is a vulnerable female in the home, or if the occupant is nervous, afraid or an easy target.
As well as saying where there are rich pickings, the code also warns if a property is well-guarded or has nothing valuable
A simple 'X' means the home is a good target, while the same symbol outlined with a circle means there is nothing worth stealing in the property.
A capital D with a dash drawn in it indicates that burgling the house is too risky, while five circles in the shape of a star shows that a property is wealthy.
Other marks reveal if a house is alarmed or has already been burgled.
Police in Torbay, Devon, posted the symbols on Twitter in a bid to warn homeowners that they may be a target for thieves.
DC Steve Fleetwood warns the 'ancient' symbols are being drawn outside homes by criminal gangs.
He said: 'The Exeter Neighbourhood Team saw them at the end of a few drives, on a few kerbs and on gate posts and we want to warn people about them.
'It is very new to us and we are just asking people to be aware.'
DC Fleetwood says the code could be a valuable tool in the fight against crime.
He added: 'Knowledge is power. If we're aware of it happening we can see if there have been any burglaries in the area and we can analyse the data to gather intelligence.'
He urged homeowners to report any unusual markings on low-rise walls, pavements or kerbs by ringing 101 or their local police station.