Google Street View Aids in Kidnapping Case

January 8th, 2009 at 12:00 am

street view kidnapping motel

Google Street View when first released was not a crowd favorite especially for privacy activists.  Many were concerned about the legality of Google taking photographs of people and buildings on the street without the permission of those who would eventually be in the photo.   In some places, the protests against Google Street View have banned the mapping service completely.

That however is not the case this time.  This time, the whole world is grateful to the Google Maps and Street View application for its part in solving a kidnapping case which ultimately lead to the release of a victim.

"Google’s Street View imagery was used by police officers to help successfully locate a kidnapped child in rural Virginia.  Nine year old Natalie Maltais, from Athol, Massachusetts, was found safely at a motel on Tuesday."

the whole drama was like the one we only see on TV.  Police are looking for a kidnapped girl, tracks her phone via triangulation then with the location locked, the cavalry moves in.  It was something like that, however in real life tracking a phone via triangulation is only accurate til about 300 feet.  This means that even if the location is locked there’s still quite a bit of space where the victim may possibly be and positioning the rescue team properly is nearly impossible without eyes on the site.

"Then I Googled it," the police officer said.

Deputy Chief Lozier said that on the Internet search engine site Google there is a street view where people can look at photographs of neighborhoods in many locations.

Using the street view, he was able to look back and forth from the intersection.

Looking across a field, he said he saw a long building with a red roof that looked like a motel. He then did a search on Google for motels in Natural Bridge and found the Budget Inn-Natural Bridge, which, on a map, appeared to be close to the intersection he was looking at.

Not satisfied with that, he then looked at Google’s satellite view of the motel and saw it was close to the intersection.

"I told Todd if I was going to throw the dice, I’d throw them there," he said.

Officer Neale then called state police in Virginia and told them the missing people were likely in the motel.

The police found them and placed Ms. Maltais in custody.