With all due respect to crime solvers around the world, sometimes a badge and a quick wit aren’t enough to sniff out lawbreakers. Sometimes you’ve got to rely on computers, gadgets and the latest scientific advances. Move over, Greatest Police Chases; here are the greatest moments in technology-assisted crime solving. Crime doesn’t pay if it does not compute…
Arturito, the Crime-Solving Robot
In its first use by Chilean police, Arturito scanned a farmhouse for the body of a businessman who’d been missing for over a year. Within two hours, the robot had pinpointed the location of the body — under 12 feet of concrete. Named as a take-off on R2D2 from Star Wars, Arturito has also discovered buried treasure and was built to sniff out land mines. Unfortunately, I have no idea how the robot works because the creator, Manuel Salinas, is guarding its design as “an industrial secret.”
Pot Farm Found With Google Earth
People were incredulous of idea that Swiss cops could weed out a pot farm with Google’s satellite image software. Indeed, with the address of suspected farmers in hand, all the police had to do was plug in the address and look for the sketchy patch of green. All told, the authorities seized 1.2 tons of marijuana and arrested 16 people. Now word on how many people showed up for the burning.
200-Time Burglar Found With Geographic Profiling
Geographic profiling gained some attention in the Washington, D.C., sniper shootings of 2002, but in the end it didn’t result in an arrest. That’s the norm for this method, which usually helps police figure out an offender’s general whereabouts by combining large pools of information. In 2005, however, Orange County police nailed down the exact residence of a man suspected of burglarizing over 200 homes. Police found a suspicious person at the scene, and kept him under surveillance until he did enough sketchy things to warrant an arrest.
Laser Scanner Busts DUI Perp
Most of the examples here are pretty lighthearted, but tragic drunk driving accidents are not. That’s why Leica Geosystems’ laser scanner, which can quickly and accurately photograph and measure up a crime scene, is truly an admirable police tool. In 2004, California Highway Patrol in Redwood City used the device to disprove a driver’s claim that his Acura’s brakes faded before the car slammed into Volkswagen Beetle, killing the driver. Later, the same technology helped police built a case against Roberto Vellanoweth, a prominent state Republican who was later convicted of killing four in a DUI accident.
Tyre Thieves Dial 911 on Themselves
Say what you will about mobile phones with number keys on the face, but what would otherwise be a design blunder actually helped Orange County police catch three suspected tyre thieves. Apparently, one of the men dialled 911 from his pocket, and a dispatcher quickly figured out what was going on from the sound of tyres being removed. Police traced the call’s location and arrested the men on the scene.
Stolen Laptop Found With Remote Desktop
You’ve heard the basic story before: Police can’t find stolen item, so victim takes matters into his own hands. This time, José Cáceres patiently stalked the thief for a month using a remote desktop application until he finally got an address. Police dutifully arrested the man a few hours later. The downside? Cáceres had to sit through a lot of the perp’s porn-watching to get any decent information.
Phelps Bong Caught on Ebay
Here’s the thing: When you sell a high-profile item on Ebay, it gets noticed, so you probably want to make sure it’s not illegal before chancing it. That bit of wisdom would have helped the owner of the now-famous bong that Michael Phelps toked at a party in Columbia, S.C. It was going for $100,000 before police confiscated it. Apparently, the owner wasn’t even at the party.
Man Announces Murder Plans on the Internet
On a similar note, if you’re planning a stabbing spree, don’t go announcing it on the internet. Really, this is pretty sick, but I'm amused by the straightforward nature of the man’s threat to kill people at Tokyo Disneyland. “I will go to Disneyland to stab visitors to death,” he wrote. No you won’t.
Onstar to Stop Stolen Vehicles Automatically
In a new perk to General Motors’s OnStar system, stolen vehicles will slowly roll to a stop, leaving the thief with nowhere to go. This hasn’t resulted in an arrest yet, but the technology is just going into new models now, so it’s only a matter of time. One reporter who tried it notes how OnStar’s female voice calmly tells felons to pull over for “assistance.” Criminals won’t get that kind of courtesy in the slammer.
Police Use Mii Channel Instead of Sketch Artist
To be honest, I don’t know if if this got solved or not, but we sure hope so. Apparently, Kanagawa police felt that this digital likeness of a perpetrator — crime unknown — would be more recognizable than a real-life rendering. Either that, or they couldn’t afford a sketch artist. If it did work, the Check Mii Out Channel has potential as a new police recruitment tool.