Friday 10 April 2009

Organised crime.

In the comments to my post about Google Streetview, Tim Almond points out how stupid the residents of Broughton are:

Rather than images of their houses appearing on Street View (where the odds of a burglar stumbling across them was close to zero), they've instead had their village plastered across the pages of various newspapers about how they're all very affluent and scared of getting their rich houses burgled.

Well done, idiots.

In case you have no idea what we're talking about, here it is:

Village mob thwarts Google Street View car

A spate of burglaries in a Buckinghamshire village had already put residents on the alert for any suspicious vehicles. So when the Google Street View car trundled towards Broughton with a 360-degree camera on its roof, villagers sprang into action.

What? Just read that crap again and see what the journalist's trying to imply here. Because of burglaries, the residents were looking out for suspicious vehicles — perhaps vans with "SWAG" written on the side. And then they spotted a car with a huge bloody great camera mounted on a tripod on top of it and "Google" written on the side — just like a burglar would drive!

Forming a human chain to stop it, they harangued the driver about the “invasion of privacy”, adding that the images that Google planned to put online could be used by burglars.

Then, for good measure, to make absolutely sure they got no more unwanted attention from outsiders, they talked to the national press about it.

As police made their way to the stand-off, the Google car yielded to the villagers. For now, Broughton remains off the internet search engine’s mapping service.

It was Paul Jacobs who provided the first line of resistance. “I was upstairs when I spotted the camera car driving down the lane,” he said. “My immediate reaction was anger; how dare anyone take a photograph of my home without my consent? I ran outside to flag the car down and told the driver he was not only invading our privacy but also facilitating crime.”

He then ran round the village knocking on doors to rouse fellow residents.

Notice the missing bit there, at the start of that last paragraph? The detail that has to be there for it to follow on sensibly from the previous sentence? "Because the driver ignored him for some reason..."

While the police were called, the villagers stood in the road, not allowing the car to pass. The driver eventually did a U-turn and left.

I like that "eventually". I've seen a few reports of this incident, and reckon that, much as the media would like to portray it as some sort of grand stand-off, perhaps with Google's driver aggressively revving his engine and trying to force his way through the crowd, he probably turned round after about twenty seconds. I just doubt, somehow, that his Googlebosses ordered him "Get Broughton! We've got to get Broughton. That village is key to our plans! Key!" I suspect that photos of whatever the next village down the road is were just fine.

Mr Jacobs said: “This is an affluent area.

Because he's stupid.

We’ve already had three burglaries locally in the past six weeks.

What? Without being on Google Streetview? How on Earth could that even be possible?

I love the way that Mr Jacobs clearly thinks that telling the world about burglaries that were demonstrably not in any way caused by Google in some way backs up his case.

If our houses are plastered all over Google it’s an invitation for more criminals to strike.

Because that's what burglars do. Your typical burglar isn't sure where to find actual houses and has no idea where wealthy people live, often mistakenly breaking into hovels full of shit and making off with hauls consisting of little more than toenails and cheese, so will travel thousands of miles if he sees evidence of that Holy Grail, a house with some decent stuff in it. Burglars are very rarely local.

I was determined to make a stand, so I called the police.”

And I'd just like to take this opportunity to thank the police, who are so reluctant these days to deal with minor crimes such as gunmen killing innocent people in cold blood, for turning up to the scene of this particular atrocity so promptly.

Tim has now been proven even more spectacularly right than he already was:

But not only has the village now become the focus of national attention, it has raised the ire of Internet users, who are now campaigning for Street View enthusiasts from across the UK to descend on the village to snap their own perfectly legal photographs.


They have already begun posting pictures of the village online and used the photographs to post tongue-in-cheek 'masterplans' on how to plot robberies, by climbing on red phoneboxes and swinging off tree branches.

Ah, you've got to love the Web.

Anyway, what I really wanted to say before I went on a bit was this. Burglars, broadly, come in two varieties: the everyday, petty-crime, semi-inept ones the police know all about, and the ones who plan meticulously and commit perfect crimes and very rarely get caught. And I've been trying to work out what use Streetview might be to either.

Firstly, you've got the amateurish ones. These are your common-or-garden local crims who get caught when the webcam on top of the PC they're nicking automatically uploads their photos to the Web while they're at it. They don't generally stake out their targets all that thoroughly. They're opportunists, as a rule.

And then there are the Danny Ocean types. Just imagine one of these highly organised gangs. They're planning a big burglary. Every detail has to be just right. The boss tells one of his men to go photograph the target property thoroughly — every angle, every detail. The minion comes back a couple of hours later, saying, "Hey, look, I didn't need to go out with the camera in the end — got these photos off of Google. And they're only eight months old!" Do you think this minion would still be a member of the gang the next morning?

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