“It is a popular urban legend that robbers mark houses that they plan to rob. There is speculation in the media and in popular discourse that different types of markers convey coded messages aimed at other groups of criminals or attackers. Commonly used markers are said to be plastic bottles and ribbons tied to a fence or crayon markings on the pavement or fence. The responses of the robbers in this survey suggest that marking is not common practice at all. The majority (80%) said they have never heard of house robbers, whether in towns or farms, marking houses before a robbery. They said there was no need for such practice since they obtained detailed information from inside informers about the target house and had generally kept the house under surveillance. They also pointed out that since they did their own preparatory work there was no need to use coded messages. Two of the respondents said that they had at times marked a house or a farm before a robbery by placing an object on the pavement or next to the road in front of the house, or tying something that served as a ribbon to the fence. However, their purpose was not to leave a coded message but simply to make sure they could easily locate the targeted premises when they returned, especially if they did not know the neighbourhood very well. In an age where sms text messages are ubiquitous it is not clear why people so readily believe that a system of coded messages would be necessary. Robbers can in any case take photos of the target with a cell phone camera or send a sms message with directions. From my discussions with people on the topic, it appears that people&39;s readiness to believe in these types of ‘detective story&39; methods arises out of a feeling of helplessness and fear. Sadly, there are also reason to think that some ‘security experts&39; exploit this fear by offering quasi ‘proof&39; that such coding or marking systems exist. Some go so far as providing ‘training courses&39; in which people can learn how to read and interpret these ‘coded messages&39;. One of the coded messages these ‘security advisors&39; claim can be understood from studying signs is said to communicate how many days it is before the planned ‘attack&39; will take place. It appears as if some of the techniques used by burglars to determine whether someone is at home, are misunderstood as a coded message. A few of the robbers said they had on occasion placed marker objects to determine whether the residents of the house were away, for example an empty can or bottle in the driveway, or a piece of paper under the front door. Alternatively they would throw a can or bottle into the yard in a place where the residents would easily be able to see and remove it, or they would close the valve on the main water inlet pipe to the house. The next day they would return and see whether the object had been removed or the water valve had been opened. Another technique was to place a piece of adhesive tape between the closed gate and the gate post, or force a piece of paper or plastic into the gap. The robbers would later check whether the marker was still in place”.
A resident contacted us about his house being marked for house robbery. As usual, members of the Community Police Forum went out to the residents house to investigate.
The resident showed us two red coke cans lying in front of his house on the grass. Nearby we found two empty chocolate wrappers, as well as a chips packet wrapper as well.
We noticed the house across the road had CCTV cameras pointing directly out through the palisade fence to the “marked house”. We went back to visit the homeowner and asked if we could review the CCTV footage.
We found that earlier that afternoon, two kids coming from school were sitting talking to each other in front of the “marked house”. They were drinking coke and eating some snacks. Upon departing from the property, they just left their rubbish behind.
However, when residents report possible markings to us, we still investigate and to be on the safe side, arrange for additional patrols by Community Police Forum members as well as security companies, however in the marking incidents that have been reported to us there were only the two positives and the markings were found after-the-fact.
At the moment the MO and tendency is criminals that walk past your house, knock to see if someone opens and is home. If there seems to be nobody home, they jump the fence and attempt to break in. They usually have backpacks that contain their basic house breaking equipment.
Furthermore, the guys like to drive around in vehicles, stop in front of gates and knock and hoot to see if someone is home. If not, they lift the gate, drive in and break in. If someone is home and comes out, they tend to speed of and go try somewhere else, or in some cases spin some hard to believe or vague story.
Z painted on stopsign or on road –houses in street targeted for burglary.
Pile of little stones – warns of dogs
Two big stones together – two old people
Stones placed in a row – indicates how many people in the house
Swaztika painted on road – houses in street targeted for burglary. Direction of the swazika indicates which house is the target.
|Simba (or Lays) chips packets – normally neatly folded, but sometimes weighed down by something inside the packet|
Brick – normally indicates a car to be stolen
2 or 3 bricks (normally new bricks) – house robbery
Immediately remove and dispose of all markers
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