Google Street View catches shoplifter in the act

Technically Incorrect: An IT worker is browsing Google Street View when he reportedly sees an image of a woman running away from a store. Police identify her as a shoplifter.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


The store in question.

Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

When fortune decides it doesn't like you, there's nothing you can do. You just have to accept the consequences.

So it was for Tammy McIvor, of Stockton in the UK, who was reportedly caught shoplifting by a Google Street View camera.

As the local Gazette reports, IT worker Peter Darby was browsing Street View. He was idly looking at the area of Middleborough around Teesside University, where he used to study, according to the story.

Suddenly, he saw something curious on Linthorpe Road: a woman clutching a shopping bag appeared to be running from a Savers store. A man appeared to be chasing her.

"She was running around with the Sports Direct bag," Darby told the Gazette, "and you could definitely tell she was up to no good."

I'm not sure my powers of Street View deduction would be so good.

It's unclear whether Darby passed his discovery to the Savers store or to the police. He didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. Neither did the Cleveland Police nor Savers.

It's also unclear at what point in the legal process Darby made the discovery. But it appears the Street View photos played at least some role in bringing McIvor to justice.

The reports say police recognized her from her outfit in Street View shots. She was reportedly wearing the same outfit when police apprehended her in June, around the same time the Street View image was taken.

McIvor was reportedly convicted of shoplifting 60 British pounds ($74.61) of goods and given a one-year community order. The Telegraph adds that she had several previous convictions.

Over the years, Street View cameras have captured all kinds of odd events, from allegedly cheating husbands to apparently drunken men sleep on the curb.

One could never condone theft. But what were the chances first that a Street View camera would capture the action and then that an IT worker would look at the images and conclude that McIvor -- whose face was blurred -- was "up to no good"?

There are times when the fates decide they're going to get you. Just because.

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