Pet owners fear their homes could be monitored by criminals after mysterious white chalk circles appeared on the footpath outside their properties.
The unexplained markings have popped up at multiple locations around the suburb of Plymstock in Plymouth.
People living in the area have reported seeing a white transit van stop outside a property in Billacombe on Monday morning. A man was seen jumping out and drawing in chalk on the road before getting back in the van and driving off.
It has sparked fears of dog snatching or burglary.
The strange activity comes after a so-called "burglar's code" was circulated on social media which claimed to decode the chalk markings thieves would leave outside potential victims' homes.
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The symbols include signs meaning "good target", "alarmed" and "vulnerable occupant/female".
The code hasn't been corroborated by police, although cops in Plumstead, south east London, did share the image back in 2016.
One Plymouth homeowner told PlymouthLive that people were scared that dog-snatchers were identifying valuable pets to steal.
"People are worried," he said. "[The markings] are around Billacombe road and by Fairway Furniture and Colesdown Hill, they're right outside people's houses."
Both Plymouth City Council and South West Water denied their workers were the ones leaving the circles, saying they don't use white chalk to mark footpaths.
Devon and Cornwall Police said it could not comment on speculation and the force could not link the reports to any specific incident, but encouraged anyone with concerns about possible criminal activity to contact police on 101.
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