Dog-snatcher fears fuelled by callers

Suspicious callers have been raising hackles across Banbridge, reportedly marking houses with chalk and giving rise to fears of roaming dog-snatchers.

Social media was alive last week with reports of dog-owners discovering chalk-marks on their property after a visit by a number of men apparently peddling knives.

Police, while stressing there was nothing to suggest the markings were a precursor to criminal activity, announced they would be maintaining a visible presence in the area and warned the public both to be wary of bogus callers and to report any suspicious activity.

A spokesperson acknowledged a number of reports on Tuesday, March 26, of males calling at homes and attempting to sell knives and other household items.

“The males were travelling in a white van and a number of residents reported white chalk markings outside their properties after the males had called,” she said.

Facebook posts placed the men variously at Maryville, Mountview Park, Brookfield Meadows, Ballymoney Hill, Scarva Road, Windyridge and Hillhead.

“I don’t know if this rumour is true but I have heard that these people are trying to steal dogs,” said one man online. “That may be why there are chalk marks on fences.”

Another posted: “They chalked the wall on our house earlier plus they seen our dogs as they ran out the door past me. I reported it to police; they say they’ve had a dozen reports of these guys and all bar one had dogs . . . the chalk has been removed but I’m worried about leaving the house now.”

One woman wrote of being afraid to be in her own house: “ . . . and now my dogs have to be confined to the house whilst I’m out tomorrow,” she added.

Sergeant Billy Stewart of Banbridge Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: “A number of residents were very concerned about their homes being targeted and reported the matter to police.

“This was the right thing to do and we have launched enquiries into the matter and are working to identify the males involved.

“I would like to reassure the public that we have nothing at this stage to suggest that these markings are a precursor to criminal activity; however, we will maintain a visible police presence in the area over the coming days.

“If you have any concerns or would like further information on protecting your home and property, please contact us in Banbridge on the new non-emergency 101 number.”