Google StreetView, GPS Save Kidnapped Girl

According to the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Google StreetView was used by police to help locate a child in Virginia who was allegedly kidnapped by her grandmother. The police tracked the girl’s cell phone with GPS and then confirmed her whereabouts at a Budget Inn on a rural highway in Natural Bridge, Virginia, using StreetView:

According to the newspaper account:

Police Chief Timothy C. Anderson said the child and grandmother had been missing since Saturday, when Ms. Maltais [the grandmother] picked up Natalie [the child] for what was supposed to be a weekend visit. Alarmed by comments made to them by the grandmother that they would never see Natalie again, the child’s guardians contacted police.

The arrest of Ms. Maltais yesterday and the recovery of the child were the direct result of clever investigative work by Athol Police Officer Todd Neale and Deputy Fire Chief Thomas V. Lozier.

Officer Neale hit on the idea of tracking the woman and the child using the child’s cell phone . . . Officer Neale [ ] contacted the child’s cell phone provider seeking a way to trace the call.

The [cell phone carrier] provided him with GPS coordinates every time the phone was activated.

Knowing Deputy Chief Lozier has extensive experience using GPS technology, Officer Neale contacted him at the fire station. It then became a back and forth effort between the cell phone company, the police officer and Deputy Chief Lozier, who received latitude and longitude coordinates and triangulated them to learn where the two missing people were.

“Then I Googled it,” he 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.

It’s terrific that the police were able to find the girl and return her to her guardians. And for Google’s StreetView, which has often come under fire for privacy intrusions, this is a welcome piece of positive PR.

Related Topics: Channel: Local | Google: Maps & Local

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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