Friday, August 25, 2006

Google Earth

If you haven't discovered Google Earth by now you're really missing out on a fun and useful Internet tool. Google Earth is a great way to learn geoography. They list a number of fun sites that you can "fly" to. You can type in a location, including almost any address in the United States, and then Google Earth zooms in on it just like you're flying there. They even have a DaVinci Code tour, taking you to sites mentioned in the book and movie, which Google calls "a little-known and obscure book and movie."

At Sherlock Investigations, we use Google Earth as an investigative tool. It's useful in preparing for many surveillance assignments, as you can literally scope out the land. You can spot trees, buildings, lakes, and ponds. If fact, it is so detailed that I can see my parked car in New York. (The up-close details in some rural areas are somewhat obscure.)

Google Earth is comprised of satellite photos taken at least two years ago. It is not real time, but still very useful.

In one case, we found that the subject of an investigation had a large house with an olympic-size swimming pool. This was useful information as we were conducting a background investigation.

When trying to locate a person recently, Google Earth solved the case. No, we didn't see the person standing in front of his house. Through other means, we located the person and his phone number, but no one ever answered the phone there, and there was no response to a Fedex envelope sent to the address.

So I ran the address on Google Earth and noticed that it was a large complex in Florida near a golf course. Next, I ran the address on Google and found that it was a large retirement community. I Googled the name of the retirement community and found their contact number. I called their office and inquired about the subject of my investigation. Right away they told me, "Oh, he's on vacation up north and won't be back until the end of October." But they knew where he was and put me in touch with the subject.

So, besides being a lot of fun, Google Earth has numerous useful purposes.

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