Google Street View May Have Caught a Thief in Action
As Jalopnik explains, 11-year-old Reuben Soames first discovered the suspect while looking up his family's home in Derbyshire, England on Google Maps. The site's Street View images of the Soames' front yard showed their old travel trailer sitting in the driveway. The trailer had been stolen in 2009 from their driveway, but the family had never found out who did it -- until now... maybe.
In addition to showing the trailer, Google's images also featured a man standing right next to an unfamiliar SUV, and buttoning his pants. The family believes this man is the same person who actually stole the trailer, and that he used the parked SUV to haul it away. Police have already begun circulating screenshots of the guy's face, in the hopes that someone recognizes him. One thing they can't use, however, is the SUV's license plate. Google automatically blurs out all identifying images that it captures with its Street View cameras, and typically render the originals inaccessible after one year. Because the camera was stolen more than a year ago, the picture has already been permanently archived. (The image of the man's face, obviously, was still available.)
At this point, the connection between the robbery and the image still seems a bit tenuous, at best. Google may have very well captured a thief in mid-theft, and that would be kind of incredible. But we're still waiting for more information before congratulating the company on its serendipitous Street View nab.