By Calvin at 09:55 GMT, 9 years ago
In today’s The SUN there’s a story about a young lad, Reuben Soanes, who spotted his family’s stolen caravan on the driveway of another house when he was browsing Google’s Street View. Next to the caravan is a picture of the suspected thief and his 4X4 vehicle. After some delay Google supplied the police with an original and un-blurred image of the suspect and the 4X4’s registration and now the police have arrested a person for the theft.
This is undeniably great news for the Soanes family and well done to Reuben for spotting their caravan.
However, do bear in mind that today’s thieves can use Google Street View to their advantage. They can tour nearby streets making plans and looking for opportunities without leaving their own homes. Whilst some of the street views can be quite old (the one of my house is 2 years old) the information is nevertheless useful and reduces the amount of time they have to spend simply walking the streets looking for opportunities, which puts them at risk of being noticed and reported to the police.
Today I took a Google tour along my own street to see what intelligence I could gather. This is what I spotted:
- Open side access to the backs of some of the houses
- After zooming into some front doors I was able to examine the numbers of locks on a front door (only a nightlatch?)
- Recessed doors
- Easily stolen potted shrubs
- Availability of cover provided by high hedges and trees to the front of a property
- Alarm boxes
- Light fittings
- Neighbourhood Watch signs
- Views over the tops of walls (The Google vehicle’s camera is on top of the vehicle and therefore gives an elevated view)
- Ungated alleyways behind terraced properties
Is there any evidence to suggest that Google Street View is causing a crime wave? No; not to my knowledge and in fact burglary numbers have generally been falling since Street View became available. In fact Street View is an incredibly helpful tool for the police and people like me who consult on crime matters, because it helps us save time in understanding the vulnerabilities and strengths of the local built environment prior to visiting the area.
So should we worry about the information that Google Street View can provide to criminals? Just a little bit. Just be aware that any weaknesses your property might be revealing to the camera is on permanent record and perhaps this is the right time to do something about them, so that when Google re-films your street in a couple of years time the picture of your home will portray the right messages to the thieves.
You know it makes sense!