What do you use Google Street View for? Admiring your front garden? Zooming in on the opening times of local eateries? Solving crime? The latter may sound a little far-fetched, but that’s exactly what happened in 2010 when an alleged caravan thief was caught in the act, in glorious technicolour, putting caravan insurance companies on red alert.
=In the summer of 2009, a white Abbey Adventura caravan went missing from outside a house in Cauldwell Road, Linton. Wheel clamps securing the caravan were removed and left behind.
Despite a thorough examination of the scene, the stolen vehicle was never traced and the culprit never located, though it was established that the theft took place between 09:30 am and 14:00 pm on 5th June.
The thief must have thought he was out of the woods. Indeed, he may well have been planning a relaxing jaunt to the coast when, in March last year, almost ten months after the incident, the son of the original owner came across Google’s latest piece of wizardry.
Checking the Street View image of his own home, the man was greeted with the sight of a stranger standing beside an unrecognised vehicle parked in his driveway, and presumably eyeing up the caravan.
The image was released by police in November 2010 alongside an appeal for anyone who recognised the man to come forward.
It was thought the Street View car could have been passing shortly before the theft. PC Mason, investigating the theft at the time, said: “It was an amazing coincidence the car was passing at that time”.
Of all the potential pitfalls of stealing a caravan, from the sheer effort and length of time required, to the suspicion-raising sounds and only being able to escape at 50 mph or below, being photographed on the Internet must rank as a fairly low risk threat.
After all, it wasn’t even closed circuit television that caught the apparent thief, simply the latest plaything of an Internet and technology behemoth.
This rather unconventional use of Street View has at least given Google some ammunition with which to fight back against critics who feel it is too intrusive.
It did what forensic examination couldn’t and delivered a prime suspect on a plate for the Derbyshire constabulary, who are currently embroiled in a battle with the Internet giants to obtain a clear picture of the alleged thief’s car.
As dictated by policy, the original Street View snap has blurred the number plates and police have been told they will require a court order to get hold of a clean copy. This process is underway and, in the meantime, the hope for witnesses to come forward springs eternal.
Caravans are expensive, which is a presumably significant factor in what makes them an apparent target for ambitious thieves. A motor caravan home represents an enormous financial commitment and therefore well worth protecting under the best caravan insurance.
Many policies will not only cover the vehicle itself, but much of the contents too. Modern caravans contain any number of gadgets and valuable technological items. Portable televisions, DVD players, games consoles and radios are just some of the many desirable caravan accessories that are worth protecting.
As is the case with insuring just about anything these days, it’s worth taking the time to find the right deal for you. As with cars, a number of options, criteria and concessions are available.
After all, the next time a thief fancies a camping holiday, but doesn’t fancy staying in a tent, they might not stop to wave to the world.