Thieves' code – myth or reality?

Starring: Eddie and Derek


Download film and share:

Thieves' code – introducing Eddie and Derek 

Download film (mp4 file) 

Eddie and Derek on YouTube

Like in any job, teamwork and communication are key. That's why Eddie and Derek leave little messages on the walls of houses.

Click here and share

Thieves' code: myth or reality?

The use of the symbols is a subject of dispute © - Max

A harmless chalk drawing on the house wall, symbols carved into the letter box or on the garage door ... upon discovering these kinds of signs, some people automatically think of the thieves' code. In recent times these supposed secret signs for burglars have often been discussed in the media and on social networks.

The use of the symbols is a subject of dispute

Whether the thieves' code is actually used is disputed. But many believe that the thieves' code is not used as often as reports in the media would have you believe. However, anyone who discovers these kinds of signs near their home or their premises should take a closer look. After all, copycats are still out there. Or children may be inspired by these signs and scribble them on walls or floors.

What should I do if I find a strange drawing?

Have you found this kind of drawing on your house or somewhere close by? Take a photo of the symbol and the location and then wipe away the suspected thieves' code. Also report your finding to the police. If it is a thieves' code, the specialists may be able to provide some tips on what to do next. 

Many of the symbols used in the thieves' code reflect people’s fears

A huge number of thieves' code symbols are swirling around in the media landscape and social networks. Examples include symbols for 'Single person', 'There is something worth taking here', 'No man in the house' or 'Old people'. They reflect people’s concerns about their personal sense of security as singles and the elderly are often considered easy targets. This is especially true for single women as well as older people, as they live alone or often seem more vulnerable due to their age. Because it is assumed that they have valuable material assets, burglars also like to target the well-off.

Why does the thieves' code exist?

Whether secret beggar, gypsy or arsonist signs, the thieves' code has a long tradition. It appeared in the 16th century and helped beggars and crooks quickly communicate using simple symbols. The signs were often carved. This is the reason why the symbols used in the thieves' code are often jagged or round: to make sure that they were easy to carve.

The following lists are not exhaustive. They are sourced from the daily press and publications in social networks.

The top 10 thieves' code symbols © shutterstock - PhuShutter

The top 10 thieves' code symbols

This lets you know which thieves' code symbols are used most frequently. You can use them for comparison if you find these kinds of drawings on your home.

Other thieves’ code symbols

A sign often has many meanings. But the opposite is often also true: different signs can have the exact same meaning. Here is a selection of symbols used in the thieves’ code: 


These thieves’ code symbols refer to the occupants of a house:

These thieves’ code symbols refer to the occupants of a house

  1. Single woman
  2. The house is constantly occupied
    People are at home
  3. Dog (in the yard)
  4. Only women in the house
  5. Only men in the house
  6. Uninhabited house

    Uninhabited apartment
  7. Two children, two women, one man
  8. Religious occupants/religious house
    But also: You can get something to eat here 
  9. Unfriendly people
  10. Caring women
  11. People will call the police
  12. Active police officers
    The police live here
    Police in the house
  13. Public employee
    Public representative

These thieves’ code symbols refer to the occupants of a house
Material assets
Times of day

Secure your home with ABUS ...

The jury is still out on whether or not the thieves' code is real. But with ABUS you're sure to be on the safe side. As a rule of thumb, you should use mechanical locks in combination with electronic solutions to provide all-round intrusion protection.


Did you know that unlocked windows and patio doors can be opened in no time using a screwdriver?

That is why you should put a stop to thieves and ensure comprehensive basic mechanical protection for your windows.



Invest in the security of your doors – it's worth it.

Secure door cylinders with a security card, durable mortise locks, certified security strike plates and protective hardware with withdrawal protection will keep your home and family safe.



There’s an intruder trying to break into your home. But lucky for you, you’ve just had a notification sent straight to your mobile.

Our alarm systems provide effective protection for your home. And they do even more: they provide a prompt warning in case of fire, notify the appropriate authorities in case of a medical emergency or attack and protect against technical damage by water.



Would you like to be able to pay a visit to your home to see if everything is OK, regardless of where you are in the world? Then cutting-edge surveillance cameras are a good solution.

Video footage is very useful for insurers, but live images of your house can also be exceptionally reassuring when you’re out and about.


... to make sure that you will only find one thieves’ code symbol at your home:

... to make sure that you will only find one thieves’ code symbol at your home: ABUS secured! © ABUS

Partners worldwide

Are you looking for an ABUS partner in your country? Then browse through our partners worldwide. 

To partners worldwide

Questions & answers

Security glossary