Wandsworth Council is warning homeowners of a new burglary scam, where gang members trawl the area to find vulnerable properties. If they decide your home is a good target for burglary, they will leave a subtle marker on the property to alert other members of the gang.
So what has been going on, and how can you protect yourself?
The scamThe gangs have made '24 hour locksmith' stickers, which are see-through except for text which appears to be advertising a locksmith service - with a fake phone number. They have been placing them on doors of properties in Wandsworth
The council has warned people to be on the look out for these stickers. They may look like innocent marketing, but the police have warned householders that if they have a sticker on their home, it means the gang has decided your property is an ideal burglary target.
They say there has already been one burglary linked to the stickers, and they have a number of leads.
People in the area have been warned that if they find a sticker on their property, they should remove it immediately. The council's crime prevention spokesman Councillor Jonathan Cook said: "There is growing evidence that some organised teams of burglars may be using this method to target homes in south London. We are therefore urging local residents to keep a very close eye out for these stickers and if they find one to remove it straight away."
Are you at risk?At the moment the stickers have only been spotted in South London, but this is a new incarnation of an old criminal approach.
Elsewhere gangs may leave a chalk mark on the pavement or on the garden wall. In September Greater Manchester police warned that there had been a rise in marking of property, which was being nicknamed the Da Pinci Code. A cross on the outside of the property was thought to mean a good target, a flower symbol indicated wealth, and a book showed the homeowner was a vulnerable woman.
It's a useful reminder to householders everywhere to keep an eye on small changes made to the exterior of their property.
Even if your property is not marked out as a target, it doesn't mean you're completely safe. Inspector David Bannister from Wandsworth police said: "At this time of year with the darker evenings there is traditionally a rise in burglaries, particularly between 3pm and 7pm." So if your home is unoccupied at this time it's worth considering whether you have taken sufficient precautions to keep unwanted intruders out.