An investigator says criminals use Google Street View to plan their crimes.
You’ve probably looked at your house on Google Earth or Google Street view. Maybe you’ve virtually walked down your street to see the neighborhood. Initially, you might have thought it was pretty cool. But to someone looking to break into houses, those images give the bad guys a lot of information to help them decide which house to hit.
Google sends its Street View cars down every street in America. That means almost every home is viewable by anyone going to Google Earth or Google Maps. Not just the front of the house but the sides of the house too. Google Earth also maps the globe from above so anyone with a computer and internet connection can see your house from every vantage point.
“We have seen instances where people have used Google Earth to identify neighborhoods they want to hit,” said Investigative Commander Scott Ryan. “Particularly car burglaries and car thefts.”
Criminals can effectively case a house without raising suspicions by driving down the street. They can see what cars are in the driveway, is there a dog in the backyard? How far away are other houses in the neighborhood. They can also zoom in on the driveway or sides of the house.
“That could provide information so they know where floodlights are. The accessibility of windows and doors. They know if there are bushes or tree lines that can hide their approach or getaway,” Ryan said.
It might not necessarily make your house an easy target. But the criminals might skip your house if they can’t see it while planning their crime.
If this is a concern, you may want to make things more difficult for the bad guys by blurring out your house from Google Street View. To do that, search for your address on Google and find your house. Place the little man icon on the street in front of your house which will give you a view from the street. You can frame up your house in a red box and click “report a problem”. Google then asks about the problem. There’s no option there to request privacy so when prompted choose “Misplaced image”. Google will contact you by email for more information.
There really isn’t a good reason for your house to be pictured on Google. Keep in mind, it’s a good idea to check it from time to time as Google updates images of all streets fairly frequently. You may also need to follow the above steps for the multiple angles of your house so move up and down the street to identify any other photos where your house appears.
Google Earth from Above can also give criminals information about the layout of the land, how many homes are in the neighborhood, how far apart they are, and how affluent the neighborhood appears.