Police Credit Google Street View For Helping Catch Drug Ring

from the you're-on-google-camera dept

Following on our recent story of police using Google Street View to give them a lead in a stolen car incident, comes another report, sent in by Joshy, of a heroin dealing ring in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, who was dealing on the streets out in the open -- and also were caught on Google Street View images:
It's a little unclear from the article just how useful the Google Street View image was to the case, but it certainly seems like it could be useful as corroborating evidence...


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  1.  
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    sehlat (profile), Nov 17th, 2010 @ 11:22pm

    Intermittent surveillance is better than continuous, possibly?

    If there's a known, fixed location security camera, miscreants will simply note it and avoid it. However, if the camera is mobile, and looks only at unpredictable intervals, it's harder to adapt to.

    But what politician could survive saying "We're relying on the law of averages."?

     

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  2.  
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    ervserver (profile), Nov 17th, 2010 @ 11:37pm

    Mobile camera

    Install Google-like cameras on top of taxi cabs.

     

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  3.  
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    -, Nov 17th, 2010 @ 11:39pm

    Police who's there all the time, yet a single car going there once got them?
    It's more about local police than google.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 17th, 2010 @ 11:55pm

    The police don't like Google do they?

    I think they are hoping that the gangs will shoot at the next Google car the passes by :)

    ps: This is intended as a humorous comment, with no foundations on reality.

     

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  5.  
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    Taki, Nov 18th, 2010 @ 12:37am

    If only Goggle could catch the banksters that almost brought the house down in the USA.

    And the danger is not over yet, it could still happen.

    Anyway. Drugs are not that big if a deal to a large size potion of the country. Waste of productive capacity to prosecute crimes like these.

    A better way of handling this issue would be to decriminalize these substances, provide pharmacy grade drugs through pharmacies and undercut the black market.

    Taxed and regulated, but mostly regulated, the major criminal impact of drug use would disappear. Then all that money could be reallocated to something more useful to society as a whole rather than keeping drug addicts in prison for decades at a time.

     

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  6.  
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    Andrew D. Todd, Nov 18th, 2010 @ 2:03am

    Google Only Got in the Picture Because the Investigation Took So Long

    Well, if you read the article, the police went out and bought drugs; they became steady customers so as to accumulate cases against all the members of the gang; they used video to backstop their own testimonies and make a bulletproof case; and they did a certain amount of other trading in the neighborhood to maintain their covers (they also ran a case against the local stores for selling untaxed cigarettes, illegally imported from some other state); and this went on long enough that the Google van eventually came through.

    One can imagine how it works: Strange customer comes into the store, is offered cigarettes at the legal price, and asks, "aint you got nuttin cheaper?" They sell him some untaxed smokes from under the counter, and he doesn't pull a badge or anything like that, and he starts buying untaxed cigarettes regularly, and in due course, he expresses an interest in drugs, and gets an introduction to the dealers hanging out on the street-corner. The agent doesn't wear a wire recorder at the start, or have a tail with a video camera, anything which might make the dealers suspicious. That sort of thing gets introduced by small increments after they're hooked. The whole process took four months.

    Obviously, at some point, a drug dealer has to trust his customers, or he'd never sell any drugs. Equally obviously, if the cop on the beat felt actively antagonistic, he could drive the dealers away with a lot of general extralegal harassment, scaring their customers away, that kind of thing. At any rate, facing a lot of time, the dealers will presumably put the fingers on their suppliers, and any crooked cops who might be involved.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 18th, 2010 @ 2:07am

    More strength to the privacy activists here, although this ended up with a positive effect.. It still highlights the evil/creepy spying side of street-view.

     

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  8.  
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    out_of_the_blue, Nov 18th, 2010 @ 4:18am

    Promoting Big Brother.

    By simple logical extension, you imply that we need more of these mobile spies; that it's *good* if we're all spied on full time, because in a few rare instances "crime" will be reduced. Is that your intent? It's consistent with your general promotion of Google, the SPY AGENCY.

    'Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO, said that his company’s policy was “to get right up to the creepy line and not cross it”'

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/google/8086191/How-Google-crossed-the-creepy-line.html

     

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  9.  
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    Paul Hobbs (profile), Nov 18th, 2010 @ 4:27am

    It gets better..

    I have a source on the "inside" who has it on very good authority that Google has a time machine which they used to travel back to November 22, 1963. They had one of their street view cars driving around Dealey Plaza, and they have got absolute proof that JFK was assassinated by Elmo.

    There you go folks - you heard it here first.

    Incidentally, I hereby trademark, copyright and patent the above information. If you want to repeat it, please send me a cheque for $250.

     

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  10.  
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    darryl, Nov 18th, 2010 @ 4:41am

    Ive got it, they should merge TSA and Google

    Let the TSA and Google handle all our security, transport, finances, gropings.. and so no..

    Seem like a perfect match to me, we can have a world store of everyone who have flown and been photographed naked..

    They might even be able to track cancer rates from the scanners, on google maps.. !!..

    But we can let google fight our crime, hell we might as well get google after Bin ladin, do they have street view in the Pushtin ?

     

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  11.  
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    Michael, Nov 18th, 2010 @ 4:49am

    Re: Ive got it, they should merge TSA and Google

    Patent the combination of technology - quick!

    We could soon have Google Streetview cars that take NAKED pictures of everyone they pass!

     

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  12.  
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    darryl, Nov 18th, 2010 @ 4:51am

    How did google help the police. ?

    Mike can you explain to us please, this:

    In what way did google street view 'HELP'catch a drug ring ? .

    Im quite sure even you can answer that one mike, you claim they helped, then explain how they helped..

    You might want to also explain how they would not of gotten the conviction if it were not for Googles input ?

    And what in those pictures is any proof, or evidence that those people were doing anything criminal..

    The picture just shows them standing on the street, is that illegal in the US ?

    Last I heard it was not, so if google 'catches' you 'in the street' Mike can assume you are performing a 'crime'..

    So we await your answer Mike, how did google HELP the police ?

     

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  13.  
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    Berenerd (profile), Nov 18th, 2010 @ 5:29am

    Re:

    I would have to tell the activists that, if there is something you don't want the public to see....don't do it in public? i mean seriously, that is just plain dumb

     

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  14.  
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    Berenerd (profile), Nov 18th, 2010 @ 5:33am

    Re: How did google help the police. ?

    Man do you bother to even read the links? how about other's comments?

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20101113/00283611838/police-credit-google-street-view- for-helping-catch-drug-ring.shtml#c52

    it wasn't the ONLY proof in the case but used to supports testimony.

    LRN2READ

     

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  15.  
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    Jay (profile), Nov 18th, 2010 @ 6:19am

    Re:

    After reading about how our drug policy has failed, I disagree about just decriminalizing drugs. They should actually be legalized. The decriminalization is only a half step. Once they're legalized, then we can tax and regulate and stop putting upwards of $70 billion dollars annually to a failed policy.

     

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  16.  
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    Jay (profile), Nov 18th, 2010 @ 6:22am

    Re: It gets better..

     

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  17.  
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    darryl, Nov 18th, 2010 @ 8:31am

    Re: Re: How did google help the police. ?

    http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local-beat/Drug-Trafficking-Ring-in-North--107061798.html?nbc=44

    I t does not say ANYWHERE there that the NYPD used the google pic to support the testomony. Clerly the pic itself shows nothing, just some people standing in front of a shop... What else does it prove ?

    Yes I did read the original article, and Mike interpretation of it, but unlike you I actually read what is said !!!.

    Unless you can show me a quote that supports you claim, or supports Mikes claim then STFU, because really all your doing is drinking the Mike cool aid, and cannot seem to think for yourself !!. sorry, but thats the way it is..


    No one can explain, why google 'helped' the police, when its is clear that with or without google they would have been caught, and google had nothing to do with it..

    I tell you what though, I would not like to be a google streetview guy going into those area's now, knowing that they are the unofficial 'police'. without guns !!! :)

    good luck with that..

     

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  18.  
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    gyffes, Nov 18th, 2010 @ 9:02am

    All this Street View talk

    made me google my own address... and found myself in my driveway doing taichi. My first thought was, "wow, I remember that truck going by..." and then I thought, "hey, my form's not bad."

    I like Street View.

     

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  19.  
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    nasch (profile), Nov 18th, 2010 @ 9:04am

    Re: Promoting Big Brother.

    I wouldn't say more surveillance is better. It's a good question really, how much do we want? None? Certainly not as much as possible. Somewhere in between I guess, but it's hard to figure out how much is best.

    The main point to me though, is if there are going to be cameras, it's best that their photos or video are public, rather than in the hands of the government.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 18th, 2010 @ 10:22am

    I have trouble understanding why techdirt is such a supporter of google street view. Its helpful if you want some visual cues with your directions. But as far as law enforcement goes its not a great tool. I get the impression that techdirt would be fine if cities put cameras everywhere and monitored everything all of the time, think London. This does not seem like a good thing.

     

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  21.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Nov 18th, 2010 @ 11:33am

    Re:

    I get the impression that techdirt would be fine if cities put cameras everywhere and monitored

    Actually I've spoken out against that sort of thing. Do you not see the difference between the two?

     

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  22.  
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    Jon Noowtun, Nov 18th, 2010 @ 12:06pm

    Gargle violated these people's rights by photographing them without permission from their Sneak View cars!!!!! Nobody should ever be allowed to take anyone's photo unless they have a signed permission form IN ADVANCE!!!!! You have a right to complete and total privacy at all times, even when you're standing on a street corner!!!!! Goggle is EVIL!!!!!

    www.Pee2PeeNet.net

     

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  23.  
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    Paul Hobbs (profile), Nov 18th, 2010 @ 4:29pm

    Re: Re: It gets better..

    The driver/operator of the Google street view car was given a good supply of towels by the Google HR dept. While towels are most useful for interstellar travel, they also come in handy for time travel. So the safety of the Google guy was "mostly" guaranteed. JFK - not so much.

     

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  24.  
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    MG (profile), Nov 18th, 2010 @ 4:49pm

    This is a sensationalized story....

    As a police officer who's worked these kinds of cases, that street view pic is essentially fodder and demonstrably unnecessary for the case, wherein the multiple covert buys are all that is ever needed for a virtual slam dunk case (assuming all constitutional rights and evidentiary proceedings ate carried out correctly). Furthermore, with the ease of which we see dealers dealing their contraband on various street corners, we get our own full color high res pictures and video of the deals going down at will. A snapshot from Google Street View does not hold a candle to the efficacy of the mountain of much more solid picture, video, and covert buying evidence we already get with ease. This street view pic was at most just a fun little addition to the case, if even entered into evidence at all. It doesn't establish an iota of evidence unless it happened to have been taken the moment a certain buy/deal was made and there was not already some other form of establishing the dealer's presence on that street corner at that particular moment. Again, though, that's hardly necessary in the grand scheme of slam dunk evidence the police already had.

    I've used Facebook and the Latin-American version of Facebook to track down wanted felons, as well as used satellite views to get layouts of certain properties. I've also used county auditor sites to get floor plans of houses or businesses, but this is pretty standard practice these days.

     

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  25.  
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    MG (profile), Nov 18th, 2010 @ 5:30pm

    Re: Google violated rights?

    Just like snopes.com attempts to reduce the amount of sensationalized reactionary email responses to a made up issue, we need a site that attempts to do the same for reactionary comments with made up issues.

    First, I don't blame you for thinking this is a violation of "rights" as I likely would have thought the same thing before I became a police officer over a decade ago. But I do get this complaint often from fellow citizens who do not realize that in a public place, the supreme court has ruled that one's expectation of privacy is very limited. I don't necessarily whole sale agree with this, but it is what it is.

    Therefore, when in a public place, the default is that you should be aware you can be photographed. Exceptions would be the act of photographing someone during the course of harassment, which would require a pattern of behavior toward an individual by another individual/entity, in in which case would be a CIVIL issue, not a constitutional rights issue. Furthermore, if the pattern of photographing someone is being carried out to catch criminal behavior, the situation reverses again back to the right of the photographer to photograph someone in a public place over a series of incidents.

    In short, Google isn't violating anyone's rights to photograph people on the street, and have taken efforts VOLUNTARILY to obscure faces and license plate numbers from their images. This was not a legal requirement, it was there own policy arguably "just to be kind" but certainly to avoid any civil lawsuits, frivolous or otherwise. This of course does not include the pictures that captured the goings-on INSIDE of some home where the curtains/blinds were pulled back. While that was still ostensibly not a legal issue, it could very easily be made into a strong civil case as rather than being an inadvertent pic you or I might capture when taking a picture of the front of a house, Google's planned practice of taking a picture of the front of just about every house could make them a lot more liable, again CIVILLY, by nor taking measures to obscure what they capture INSIDE houses.

    Again, if anyone thinks Google 'worked with the police' on this clearly does not understand how minuscule the contribution, if any contribution at all, this photograph would have for the case in relation to the plethora of other evidence.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 18th, 2010 @ 5:50pm

    Re: Re:

    One is a logical extension of the other. Things change all of the time, street view pics will become outdated quickly in some places. Real time information is the ultimate street view. So no, I do not see the difference.

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 19th, 2010 @ 11:20pm

    Re: Re: Google violated rights?

    First, I don't blame you for thinking this is a violation of "rights" as I likely would have thought the same thing before I became a police officer over a decade ago. But I do get this complaint often from fellow citizens who do not realize that in a public place, the supreme court has ruled that one's expectation of privacy is very limited. I don't necessarily whole sale agree with this, but it is what it is.

    You're wasting your time. "Jon Noowtun" isn't a serious poster, they're parodying Jon Newton of P2PNet, a paranoid nutcase who uses his blog to post rants about everything Google does. Newton has put forth the idea that you have a right to privacy out in public and has even stated that it's illegal in Canada (where he lives) to photograph anyone, anywhere without their permission.

    If you'd like to explain the difference between public and private to Newton himself, you can find his blog at www.p2pnet.net. Just don't expect any of your comments to stay on the site for more than a few minutes though. Anyone who disagrees with him gets labeled a "shill" or "fanboi" and has their comments deleted.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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