April 11, 2010

Google Earth -- crime solver


  Deputy Greg Barnes in Santa Rosa County, Florida, found an abandoned boat dumped in a subdivision that was in the early stages of development in the Florida Panhandle.   Dumping a boat on private property is a crime. The question is, “Who committed the crime?”
  Deputy Barnes, an enterprising young cop, is also skilled in the use of the internet. Using his computer know-how, Deputy Barnes set out to track the unlawful boat-dumper.
  First he made a sketch of the abandoned 18-foot boat. Next he went to a program called “Google Earth,” a program made up of many thousands of satellite and aerial photographs of practically every square inch on Planet Earth.
  Using Google Earth imaging, the deputy began a systematic search outward from where the abandoned boat was dumped.
  It took some time, but Deputy Barnes, a patient cop, managed to spot a fuzzy outline of the boat on a property not too far away from where the craft was abandoned.
  The scanned photographs were mostly taken weeks or even months before the deputy’s scanning project. That enabled the cop to see where the boat was before it was abandoned.
  The deputy made a print of the map, showing the outline of the boat in the suspected dumper's yard, and drew a red circle around the boat in the satellite picture.
  With the map in hand, the deputy drove out to the suspect’s residence and confronted the boat owner with the photographic evidence. The boat’s owner readily admitted that the boat was his.
  The fee at the county landfill for dumping an 18-foot boat is $1 a foot or $18.  The fee for the illegal dumping of the boat on somebody else’s private property is a $5,000 fine and possibly up to five years in prison.

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