Have you ever seen the Google Earth van go by? It's a large vehicle, usually with a ton of camera equipment strapped to the top of the roof, and very obvious to see coming.
Over the past decade, Google has sent out hundreds of these teams to take pictures of over 5 million miles of roadway in over 39 countries. Their maps are the most up-to-date and offer an intimate view for anyone looking through to see exactly where they are going.
This means that they end up capturing much more than just road signs as they make their way through neighborhoods.
Unfortunately for these criminals, Google Earth was there to take their picture, and it wasn't their best side!
This picture led police to the right suspect in a stolen bike case. Not the only law he was breaking either; where's your helmet?!
When the Google Earth satellite flew over top of this forest in Oregon, officials noticed something strange about the way these trees were lined up. They tracked the farm down to someone with a licence to grow 30 plants, but was definitely over-producing.
Illegal Pool Parties
When Greece was cracking down on tax evaders, they matched addresses with aerial shots of neighborhoods of suspects. Quite a few people said they didn't have a pool, and yet, a blue rectangle was found in their backyards...
A land-owner curious about his property was looking at Google Earth to survey the area one day, when he thought he spied an illegal hunting cabin on his land.
When he investigated he found an SUV, and when the police showed up, he was surprised to find he had just located a stolen car!
A trailer home was stolen out of a driveway in the UK several years ago with no leads, until Google Earth offered this image of an unknown man on the property of the victims. Two years later, it led to his arrest and the recovery of the stolen caravan.
The maps service has led to the solving of much worse crimes than this, and it's hard to believe that some of these culprits didn't see it coming!
Google Earth really has become the eye in the sky, but even the driving cameras have picked up some crazy things happening right before their "eyes."
These might be one-offs, but imagine what we could capture if this was on all the time...
Did you know that there are entire websites dedicated to combing through Google Earth to find pictures of prostitutes? Well, okay, that's pretty believable.
But more surprising is the number of sex workers that the website has managed to pick up over the years.
Then again, maybe a lot of drivers are just asking these ladies for directions?
It's not only the small-time crime that Google has been able to shut down. After a rash of illegal deforestation began occurring in the Philippines, authorities reached out to the company for help to spot logging attempts.
They looked for the tell-tale signs of clear-cutting and matched it with locations with and without licences to log. So far, they have managed to nab over a dozen illegal logging operations.
Daytime Drug Deals
You think that most people committing major crimes would be smart enough to do it discreetly, right? Wrong.
When Google Earth rolls by, even though there are like, ten cameras pointing in all directions, so many people don't take a hint that people will be looking at these images sooner rather than later.
In Brooklyn, New York one group of would-be criminals didn't think that their shady practices would make it to news headlines. They were very much mistaken.
The group, who were blatantly selling heroin in broad daylight, were documented by a driving team, and the images were turned over to the police.
Imagine how shocked they were when photo evidence was shown in court!
Some days at the office are more exciting than others. This Serbian Google driver had quite the story to go home with, when they inadvertently recorded the end of a police chase.
They managed to snap a few shots of the car chase before the suspects crashed and tried taking off on foot.
They didn't get too far though, the police managed to chase after them and put the lot of them in cuffs.
I guess Google is always watching out for us!