Police use GPS, Google Maps to locate missing girl

Navigation system and Google mapping tool helps authorities find Massachusetts 9-year-old allegedly kidnapped by her grandmother.

Elinor Mills Former Staff Writer
Elinor Mills covers Internet security and privacy. She joined CNET News in 2005 after working as a foreign correspondent for Reuters in Portugal and writing for The Industry Standard, the IDG News Service and the Associated Press.
Elinor Mills

Massachusetts police used cell phone tracing via GPS and Google Maps to track down a 9-year-old girl who was allegedly kidnapped by her grandmother, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette reported on Wednesday.

Police arrested the 52-year-old grandmother at a motel in Natural Bridge, Va., on Tuesday after she allegedly failed to return her granddaughter to the home of her legal guardians in Athol, Mass., the report said. The grandmother had picked up the child for a weekend visit on Saturday and allegedly threatened to not return her, according to the report.

With help from the cell phone provider, authorities were able to trace the location of the child's cell phone and followed the journey of the grandmother and granddaughter by using GPS coordinates that updated every time the phone was used.

They were able to track the phone to an intersection on Virginia Route 11 in Natural Bridge and then used Google Street View to view the intersection, where they saw a building with a red roof that looked like a motel. Then they searched on Google maps for motels in the town and located the Budget Inn-Natural Bridge and confirmed the location using Google's satellite view on the map, the report said.

The case is "an interesting first (at least as far as we're aware)," Pablo Chavez, Google senior policy counsel, wrote in a blog post.

The Google Street View of the Virginia motel where a missing Massachusetts girl was found with her grandmother. Google