Google Street View has been used to spot a car theft suspect, revealing that sometimes its ability to spy can be put to good use. Much like a CCTV camera pointed into your window that could catch the odd burglar.
A caravan owner, who was not named, was dismayed to find that his 4-by-4 vehicle, which was parked just outside his caravan on private property, was stolen. Instead of pursuing normal avenues of inquiry the owner logged onto Street View.
In coincidental timing a Googlemobile was passing by the residence shortly before the theft took place, snapping up pictures of the street and possibly stealing private data from unsecured Wi-Fi connections. It also caught a large, bald man with glasses standing beside the car moments before it went missing.
Derbyshire police were contacted, who then released the image to the public in efforts to track down the criminal.
“It is amazing that we have such a clear image of a man who we think will be able to give us information. It was an amazing coincidence that the Google car was passing at that time,” said Police Constable Adrian Mason. He revealed that the car owner did not recognise the suspect from the picture.
Street View even spotted a green Vauxhall, which is believed to have been the vehicle of the culprit, but because Google’s policy is to block out number plates the police were unable to identify the car.
Despite the fortuitous nature of Google’s timing and the clear image of the suspect that was caught, nothing has come of the investigation so far, which has now cost in the region of £7,000 ($11,300).
“I’ve made extensive enquiries since the image was discovered but because the registration plate of the vehicle is blanked out, we have been unable to trace the man through his car. That is why we are appealing for the public’s help,” said Mason.