Attard could be the next target for professional criminals believed to be using coded markings to identify houses for potential burglary.

A similar system was noted in the Sliema-Swieqi area a couple of weeks ago when a resident highlighted the matter on his Facebook wall by posting a photo of the doodle he found scribbled on his intercom.

Attard mayor Stefan Cordina confirmed that he had received three phone calls from residents living in the Misra─ž Kola area, who noticed unusual markings on their house intercoms in recent days.

We will also have to see what level of commitment residents are willing to put in

Mr Cordina said the council wrote to the police asking for more patrols and surveillance in the locality as a result of this latest development.

The markings are codes used by criminals to impart information to colleagues about the house being targeted. The codes include identifiers as to whether a house is unoccupied and at which time of day.

The concerns in Attard come on the back of widespread concern in Sliema over a spate of thefts from houses perpetrated by what is believed to be a gang of professional foreign thieves.

The issue came to a head last week when Sliema residents voiced their fear and frustration at the situation during a public consultation meeting with the Home Affairs Minister.

An idea floated by some residents in the meeting and which was encouraged by the minister was the setting up of a neighbourhood watch programme. Similar efforts in the past failed to take off the ground as interest from residents waned when push came to shove.

Contacted yesterday, Sliema mayor Anthony Chircop said the council would meet early next week to evaluate the outcome of the public consultation at a meeting.

“We will also report on other meetings council members had with district police officers in the hope of charting out a course of action within our limitations,” Mr Chircop said.

He noted that the council would have to assess the interest of residents in forming a neighbourhood watch programme.

“You may have some areas in Sliema where more people are willing to organise themselves in a neighbourhood watch programme than other areas. But we will also have to see what level of commitment residents are willing to put in,” Mr Chircop said.

The police have stepped up patrols in the locality, including the use of plain clothed police officers doing the rounds.

Police figures showed that theft from occupied dwellings in Sliema for the first six months of the year had already equalled the total for the whole of last year, creating panic among a largely elderly community.

ksansone@timesofmalta.com