UK dog owners are sharing their concerns after a homeowner in the Wirral Peninsula posted a photo of a blue sticker, with claims that it had been found on the home’s front door.
“alot [sic] have agreed with my thoughts I really hope its nothing to worry about … but I just wanted to share this to see if anyone has had anything similar??? [sic] Birkenhead area … I have dogs and other animals,” the user wrote in a now-privated Facebook community.
Some in the group were alarmed, claiming that the sticker must be a “mark” or communication between thieves. Pet theft, especially among high-value dog breeds, is on the rise in the UK, partly as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The rise in demand for rare breeds and more precarious financial situation is a perfect storm — however, while these thefts are on the rise, the belief that thieves operate in organized rings with coded communications is an ill-founded one, especially in the modern age where illicit activities are often communicated in private online groups.
“Doesn’t make sense to leave stickers when we have the technology to communicate directly with each other. If I wanted to communicate to someone that there’s a certain dog at a certain address I’d use my mobile phone,” wrote one skeptical Facebook user.
Dr. Claire Nee, a University of Portsmouth psychologist whose work involves interviewing convicted criminals, told Cambridgeshire Live that “While only a small proportion of burglars use these codes or work in ‘packs’ tipping each other off, householders should be vigilant and report anything to the police. Perhaps more importantly, homeowners should assess and address the natural vulnerabilities of their properties such as rear and side access and cues showing no-one’s home in order to reduce the chances of burglary.”
For the time being, there is no confirmation that the blue stickers have any meaning — and aside from semi-anonymous claims on social media, there’s no way to track if these stickers have shown up at one home or many. No one has been victimized by a theft or other crime after being “marked” by one of these stickers.
While it’s likely that this is a non-story, take it as a friendly reminder to have your pet microchipped, keep an eye on them if they like being in the yard alone, and be aware of actual crime — not just gossip — in your area.
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