Homeowners are being told to beware of small white stones in their neighborhoods.
In Somerset, neighborhood watch groups suspect the appearance of such stones is used to mark houses which are empty during the day or unoccupied for long periods, reports the Daily Mail. The stones are believed to be a sign to other criminals.
In Portishead, police are on alert after mysterious rocks were left outside homes and under the wheels of cars.
Nick Gough, area co-ordinator for Portishead's Neighbourhood Watch, elaborated:
We believe certain roads are being targeted by burglars because of suspicious activity detected over the past few days. There are reports of a male leaving white stones outside of various properties. These distinctive stones are believed to have been left outside of properties which look unoccupied. This includes stones being left under rear tyres of some cars, possibly to act as a test for homeowner activity at the address. The male placing the stones is delivering charity bags for unwanted clothing.
The white stone scare recalls an earlier scare over mysterious chalk and paint symbols which had been reported in other English cities dating back to 2009.
As with the white stones, the markings were thought to give potential housebreakers details about the building, such as whether it is a good target or has an alarm, or had previously been targeted successfully.
The media called it the "Da Pinchi Code," after Dan Brown's bestselling novel "The Da Vinci Code," about the "greatest conspiracy of the last 2000 years," based on clues hidden in the works of Leonardo da Vinci.
The code was claimed to have been cracked in 2009, when the BBC and The Guardian published pictures of the symbols with their supposed meanings.
In the ensuing years, local police forces continued to publicize the threat.
In 2015, the Warwickshire Police told BBC News: “We believe there are about 40 markings in about four different ward areas of Bedworth. We are keeping an open mind but we have been looking at the Da Pinchi code," The Independent reported.
In 2016, police in South Lanarkshire warned that "Da Pinchi Code" symbols had been spotted on roads and walls near homes.
Finally it was revealed by the West Mercia Police that the symbols were nothing more than utility firms marking what work they were planning to do. According to a police spokesman, the markings are commonly used by gas, electricity, water, telecommunication and cable companies.
Britain's best-known burglar, Peter Scott, the author of "Gentleman Thief," was skeptical of the "Da Pinchi Code" when the Guardian interviewed him about it in 2009, in the same article which helped launch the fake news story. "I can't imagine burglars leaving signs for other burglars," he said. "There isn't an association of burglars."